Israeli ministers call to pardon soldier convicted of killing terrorist

Several lawmakers are pushing for Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot a terrorist and was convicted of manslaughter, to be pardoned. 

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has urged the Israeli public to accept the manslaughter conviction of Elor Azaria, an IDF soldier who shot a neutralized terrorist in Hebron last March, although a number of government ministers and Members of Knesset had already called for Azaria to be pardoned.

“A verdict has been delivered,” Liberman, who had expressed sympathy for Azaria, said after the ruling. “Even those like myself, who like the verdict less, must accept and respect it.”

However, the ministers and MKs backing Azaria feel compelled to oppose the ruling.

“Unfortunately, the judicial process was sullied by intervention of outside factors,” reads a petition to pardon Azaria, circulated by Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli.

“The shooting took place in an operational event and must be properly investigated within the army.  In similar cases in the past, the army backed the fighters, even if there were mistakes.”

Technology Minister Ofir Akunis requested that President Reuven Rivlin pardon Azaria.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, also working to have Azaria pardoned, stressed her belief that in this case, the IDF betrayed a soldier. “Soldiers have operational challenges that are not simple, and a soldier has been abandoned,” she stated.

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Azaria ‘Killed a Vile Terrorist, Not a Hero’

MK Oren Hazan, who is also backing initiatives on Azaria’s behalf, praised the convicted soldier.

“Our boy, our man, who did what was expected of him beyond any doubt,” he said. “We must remember that Elor killed a vile terrorist, not a hero, and (Elor) was there because the country sent him.”

Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, former head of the Labor party, was the first MK in the Opposition to call for Azaria to be pardoned, pointing to the potentially negative impact of the ruling on Israel’s social fabric.

“Azaria’s narrow shoulders will not be able to withstand the weight of the divide,” she argued.

By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News