(JTA) — The mother of the Israeli soldier who was seen on video shooting dead a disarmed and supine Palestinian urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “please do everything you can to make sure my son comes home.”
Her letter to Netanyahu was printed in Israeli media outlets Thursday, shortly after the Israel Defense Forces announced that the 19-year-old soldier will be formally charged with manslaughter early next week and until then will remain in custody.
The shooting has set off a national debate.
“Is it appropriate that a fighter who neutralized a terrorist at the site of an attack be detained almost a whole month?” the mother asked in the letter, according to the Times of Israel.
“Manslaughter, for God’s sake, for neutralizing a terrorist! Is it conceivable that a dedicated, moral, acclaimed fighter be accused of manslaughter, under your watch, for shooting a terrorist?”
The soldier, whose name is under gag order, last month shot Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron, a West Bank city that has been a focal point of a seven-month wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis. The soldier arrived on the scene after al-Sharif and an accomplice had stabbed Israeli soldiers and the accomplice had been killed.
According to USA Today, after the military court in Jaffa ordered the soldier to be kept in custody until Monday, demonstrators outside chanted, “Whoever kills a terrorist is an Israeli hero!”
The soldier has said that when he shot al-Sharif, he feared the Palestinian might be about to detonate an explosive.
Last week, the military prosecutor said a video of the incident shows that the soldier “was not as moved and agitated as he claimed.” The prosecutor also confirmed that the autopsy showed that the soldier’s shot to the head was what killed the assailant.
The incident has triggered controversy in Israel, with the country’s defense minister, military officials and many Israelis calling the soldier’s behavior a violation of the army’s values. That has led to widespread support for the soldier, with many calling his actions appropriate for a country reeling from months of Palestinian attacks.
According to USA Today, a Channel 2 survey released last month showed 68 percent of Jewish-Israeli respondents said the prime minister and defense minister were wrong to arrest the soldier, and 64 percent said the soldier acted “responsibly” or “naturally” under the pressure of the situation. Only 5 percent viewed the incident as murder.