Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has come out swinging, following harsh condemnation of his handling of the controversial shooting of an injured terrorist in Hevron last week.
Protesters – led by Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman and other nationalist activists – gathered outside the military court in their hundreds on Tuesday to support the soldier, and many of them slammed Ya'alon personally for rushing to condemn the shooting before an investigation had been concluded.
Clearly undeterred by the ongoing criticism from the Right, and speaking following a tour of the IDF's Central Command, Ya'alon branded the reactions "ugly" and vowed to continue stating his position clearly.
"The event on Thursday in Hevron created a wave of ugliness," he said of the many vocal supporters of the soldier's actions, "and it is important to keep the IDF out of this ugly wave, which is being created by an extreme minority of political actors."
"There is confusion and there is incitement, and the unprofessional involvement of (certain) actors in matters concerning open-fire orders, or what is going on at the moment, is not helpful," he added, in a veiled swipe at political rivals such as Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett, who has accused the defense minister of failing to back his own soldiers.
"We provide support to our soldiers and commanders, unless they deviate from the values or rules," Ya'alon retorted. "But one who provides backing to a soldier who violated (orders), according to his commanders, isn't giving support to his superior officers – from the junior officers to the Chief of Staff – he is harming the army and harming national resilience."
Going further, Ya'alon stated, "We must not be confused here… what we have here is a struggle over the very essence and character of the State of Israel and of Israeli society, in a way which influences the IDF."
"It is important that the IDF remains a stable anchor and continues to guard its norms and values. The commanders and soldiers prove this."