Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon is said to be toying with a future in politics – but if he does set out on the campaign trail, he is likely to come across resistance from family and supporters of former IDF soldier Elad Azaria, recently released from military prison over an incident in 2016 in which he shot a terrorist who was already down on the ground.
Members of the Azaria family confronted Yaalon at a parlor meeting he was speaking at, and a significant portion of his speaking time was dedicated to trying to explain his role in trying and convicting Azaria in the incident.
Azaria was convicted in February 2017 on charges of manslaughter and conduct unbecoming an IDF soldier, after shooting at a terrorist in Chevron on Purim a year earlier, when the terrorist was neutralized and on the ground, after he had been shot when he tried to stab soldiers.
At his trial, defense attorneys stressed Azaria’s sterling record as a soldier, and the fact that the possibility of a further terror attack – in which the terrorist who was on the ground might set off a bomb that he could have been carrying on his person – justified the shooting, or at least provided reasonable grounds for Azaria’s having acted the way he did.
After several appeals, his sentenced was reduced, and a parole board knocked off a third of the resulting 14 month sentence, enabling him to go home in May.
Yaalon was IDF Chief of Staff at the time, and made numerous statements saying that Azaria had acted improperly, and that he should be punished for violating the IDF’s standards of warfare. Yaalon said that the soldier had “gone bad, and acted in a way that IDF soldiers must not act.” On Thursday night, Azaria family members threw those comments back in Yaalon’s face, accusing him of lying about their son.
After attempting to ignore the comments, Yaalon retorted by saying that “there were a lot of lies in this case, but they are not the ones you are talking about.” The family continued hectoring Yaalon, saying that he made his first comments condemning Azaria even before he was questioned by military police – casting the die for his eventual conviction.
Yaalon responded that “this is one of the things that you have been cynically using for political purposes. I understand your suffering, and even called you after the conviction. That’s enough about this issue.”
The back and forth continued for more than 15 minutes, ending in a near-shouting match between Yaalon and Azaria’s mother.
Yaalon, who for the past year has been eligible to run for office after his stint as Chief of Staff, has not decided with which party, or if, to run for a Knesset seat. However, speculation is rife that he will seek a slot on the Zionist Camp list, as he has been conducting parlor meetings several times a week over the past several months.