Israeli news personality Oshrat Kotler caused a storm when she blamed the “occupation” for turning IDF soldiers into “animals.”
By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News
A leading Israeli news anchor is causing controversy after saying on air Saturday night that Israeli soldiers were turning into “animals” because of military service in Judea and Samaria.
“We send the children to the army, to the territories, and get back animals. That is the result of the occupation,” said Channel 13’s Oshrat Kotler.
She made the comments at the end of a report about IDF soldiers accused of badly beating two bound and blindfolded Palestinian suspects who were being held in the immediate aftermath of an attack in December in which two soldiers from the same battalion were killed.
The commanding officer of the five soldiers suspected of beating the Palestinian detainees was charged Sunday with failing to prevent the alleged crime.
The two Palestinians were believed to have helped the killer evade Israeli authorities. He was later captured. The attack took place at the Givat Assaf junction in Samaria.
“I thought I wasn’t hearing right, an inappropriate statement,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, in reacting to Kotler’s comments. “I am proud of the soldiers of the IDF and love them very much. Kotler’s comments should be condemned.”
Towards the end of her television program, having apparently been told that her comment was already stirring controversy, Kotler told viewers: “My own children and their friends are all combat soldiers… My criticism was aimed only at those soldiers who have been led to harm innocents by our control over the Palestinians.”
She then added: “I’m actually in favor of easing the soldiers’ punishment because it is we who sent them into that impossible reality.”
In a joint statement, parents of the accused soldiers said Kotler’s comments were “unfortunate and ugly” and “have no place in Israeli discourse, certainly not by a news anchor who should present facts and not her warped world view.”
Defense attorneys for the accused soldiers say they had psychological evaluations of the mental health condition of their clients, who were under the strain of an exhausting series of operations in the wake of the shooting attack that claimed the lives of two members of their unit.
“They were called upon to perform an impossible task: to watch over people who helped murder two of their best friends,” the attorneys told the military court in Jaffa.
In light of the sensitivity of the circumstances, the IDF Central District Court recommended that the prosecution and defense reach a plea bargain in the case.
“What terrible difficulty they’ve gone through,” said the parents in response to Kotler’s comments. They accused her of “calling [the soldiers] terrible things…without a trial.”
New Right party leader Naftali Bennett tweeted: “Oshrat, you’re confused. IDF soldiers give their lives so that you can sleep soundly. Animals are those terrorists who murder children in their beds, a teen out for a walk, or an entire family driving down the road,” said Bennett.
“IDF soldiers are our children, our strength. Apologize,” he demanded.