(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday condemned what he described as “incitement” against Israeli President Reuven Rivlin over the latter’s decision to deny a pardon for Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier imprisoned for fatally shooting a subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron in March 2016.
Shortly after Rivlin’s decision was made public on Sunday, photos of the president wearing a keffiyeh, the black-and-white headdress that is considered a symbol of Arab nationalism, began surfacing on social media with various captions, including some reading, “Reuven Rivlin the traitor, may he be damned.”
Speaking at a Likud party meeting, Netanyahu said, “In a democracy, no one is immune to criticism—I should know—and not every criticism is incitement. But criticism has to be relevant and it has to be respectful. No keffiyehs, no hangman’s noose and no Nazi uniforms…It’s wrong when it is turned against the president or any other public official.”
The prime minister said that “relevant criticism is not only allowed, it is necessary. It’s a core of democracy. We can’t always label relevant criticism from the right as incitement and when it comes from the left as freedom of speech….We want an equal, respectful, businesslike approach. There’s no room for incitement, but [criticism] can be as sharp as necessary. That’s the very basis of democracy and it has to work in all directions.”
On Rivlin’s decision not to pardon Azaria, Netanyahu said, “My position on this issue is known. I called for a full pardon from day one. My position has not changed.”