Israel Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot appeared to reject Talmudic teachings on defense while answering questions during a high school recruitment visit in central Israel Wednesday morning, several Israeli media outlets reported. When asked a difficult question by a student, he dismissed the Rabbinic dictum “when someone comes to kill you – kill him first” as a “slogan” and implied it was imprudent advice.
The Bat Yam visit was intended to prepare the students for their upcoming army service, mandatory for all Israelis at 18. During a question and answer session, Israel National News reported, Eizenkot defended the IDF’s controversial open-fire orders, which severely restrict a soldier’s options when faced with a terrorist.
“The phenomenon of terror has accompanied Israeli society throughout the years, and there also were knifings years ago. It could be in Tel Aviv, in Otniel or Ariel. We see mutual influence between what happens in the Middle East with the Islamic State (ISIS) and what happens for us here [in Israel].
“The IDF doesn’t need to get swept up in clichéd statements like ‘Kill or be killed’ or ‘Whoever comes at you with scissors needs to be killed’,” he added.
Israel has come under sharp fire for what some in Europe and elsewhere have called “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinian terrorists in the field. However, the IDF’s actual policy on the matter is incredibly reserved. As of August, soldiers in Judea and Samaria have only been permitted to fire into the air, not even shooting the lower extremities of a terrorist, and the IDF has allegedly instructed all its soldiers to avoid killing terrorists whenever possible. These orders have significantly increased the risk to soldiers in apprehending terrorists and certainly run counter to Rabbinic wisdom and even Torah law.
Eizenkot explained to his audience, “I don’t want to see a soldier empty a magazine [to shoot] a young girl with scissors,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
“These days, you can find a knife in any kitchen and household. The aim of terrorism is to sow fear and horror amongst the public. Terrorism succeeds when it prevents citizens of living their normal routine.”
Eizenkot’s well-meaning concern for Israel’s image abroad has nonetheless raised the ire of at least one MK. Betzalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home party, which advocates for greater Torah influence on life and decision-making in Israel, responded to Eizenkot’s remarks Wednesday evening by asking Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to call the Chief of Staff to a meeting.
“This is a flagrant and contemptuous statement. The Jewish principles and values are the foundation on which the State of Israel was built and upon which the IDF relies. The disregard for the sanctity of Israel and the values that accompanied our people for thousands of years is neither appropriate nor compatible with the values of the IDF and of the behavior expected of a senior officer,” wrote Smotrich. He also demanded that Eizenkot retract his statement.