JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for comparing the suffering of the parents of a soldier on trial for shooting a subdued Palestinian attacker to those of fallen soldiers.
Netanyahu on Saturday night told Israel’s Channel 2 that he did not regret making a supportive telephone call to the father of Elor Azaria, who shot the attacker in Hebron in March.
Azaria is now being tried for manslaughter in military court. He has said he believed the Palestinian attacker was still a threat.
Netanyahu called the soldier’s father, Charlie Azaria, days after the incident in March to offer his support, which critics called inappropriate ahead of a trial.
In the Channel 2 interview, Netanyahu was asked if he had called other parents of soldiers accused of violating IDF rules. The prime minister said he has not, but added: “I’ve called many distressed parents whose children fell [in combat] or were declared MIA … and here [too] we have a matter of great distress for Israelis, I want you to understand that.”
“There are countless parents who see their children — male and female soldiers — who are put in almost impossible situations. On the one hand, they need to protect themselves and on the other hand — and it is not a simple problem — need not to be light on the trigger. It isn’t easy because I was in this situation, I was in many instances, encounters or near-encounters with the enemy, and I needed to decide when I shoot and when I don’t shoot … it wasn’t easy and I think that for any soldier it isn’t easy,” he said.
Netanyahu apologized Sunday morning in a post on Facebook.
“I apologize if my remarks were misunderstood. I did not intend in any way to compare the suffering of bereaved families, a suffering I am very familiar with, to the situation of other parents in distress. There is no comparison and can be no comparison,” the post read.
Netanyahu’s office also released a statement directed at critics of his remarks.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t compare between the soldier Elor Azaria and fallen soldiers. This is a low, perverse and deceitful attempt to present his words as such. Prime Minister Netanyahu respects the families of fallen soldiers and the families of missing soldiers and is very aware of their impossible pain,” the statement said.