PM Tells All on Azaria, Amona and Obama Meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at PM Netanyahu's office. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

After a year and a half as prime minister in his current term, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu granted interviews with numerous Israeli media outlets during his visit to New York to speak at the United Nations. Speaking about the trial of IDF soldier Elior Azaria with Channel Two news, Netanyahu said that he understood the soldier’s feelings and the dilemma of soldiers who were required to defend the lives of Israelis, without overstepping their bounds.

Netanyahu said that he telephoned the parents of Azaria to discuss the situation and recommended that they allow the legal process to unfold. “I have called many families to tell them that their sons have fallen in battle or gone missing,” Netanyahu said. “Many Israelis are distressed. There are many parents who see their children in an almost impossible situation. They need to defend themselves, but on the other hand not to be too light on the trigger. This is not an easy situation.

“I myself have been in that situation many times,” Netanyahu said. “I was in the midst of a crowd of enemies and had to decide when to shoot and when not to shoot. It’s not easy for commanders of special forces, nor for ordinary soldiers. I told Elior’s father to trust the IDF and the justice system, and I would say that to all parents.”

In the wake of criticism by leftist MKs, Netanyahu’s office said that he was not equating the experience of Azaria’s family with that of soldiers killed in battle. “This is a sick and twisted interpretation of the comments. Prime Minister Netanyahu has great respect for the fallen and the missing and for their families, and is quite aware of their impossible-to-deal-with pain.”

Netanyahu also discussed the Amona situation. Several Jewish Home MKs have threatened to vote against the state budget if the site is evacuated and 24 MKs in his party have called for legalizing Amona and other outposts. “We are taking aggressive action to arrive at a solution,” Netanyahu said. “I have met with the Attorney General, the justice minister and the defense minister and I have asked them to be creative. I hope we can arrive at those creative solutions.”

Netanyahu told Walla News that the 10-year aid package that Israel closed recently with the United States was “an excellent agreement.” Responding to criticism by leftist MKs that Netanyahu could have received more than the $38 billion offered over the 10 years of the deal, Netanyahu said that no higher offer was ever even hinted at. “We actually got initial offers for less,” he said. “The deal provides us with a good financial basis to continue to strengthen our military capabilities and develop anti-missile systems.” Of the money, NIS 20 billion will go toward those systems, he said.

Netanyahu also discussed his meeting last week with President Barack Obama. “Whatever differences of opinion we have are not personal, unlike what many people believe,” Netanyahu said. “There is a greater personal appreciation in this relationship than most people think. Our differences of opinion surround issues like Iran, the settlements, and the proper way to achieve peace with the Palestinians and the things preventing that. These are the issues on which I, the prime minister, represent the Israeli people.

“Despite all the negative forecasts, these differences of opinion have not harmed our personal relationship,” Netanyahu added. “The best proof is the aid package, which many people believed would not be signed, or would be reduced. It was not reduced, it was the best aid package of all times, and proves that Israel’s friendship with the United States is solid. It crosses party lines, administrations and governments.”