Netanyahu, Liberman call for IDF ‘Hebron Shooter’ to be pardoned

Netanyahu and Liberman, supported by the right, are calling for Elor Azaria, an IDF soldier who shot a neutralized terrorist, to be pardoned.

In March 2016, Elor Azaria, a combat medic stationed in Hebron, fired a fatal shot at a neutralized terrorist as he lay wounded on the ground after committing a stabbing attack against the soldier’s colleagues.

Azaria was sentenced in February to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter. An Israeli military court in Tel Aviv on Sunday rejected his appeal, in which the defense maintained he felt his life was in danger, saying he thought the terrorist could have been carrying a bomb on his body.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, supported by politicians on the right, are calling for the soldier to be pardoned.

“My opinion has not changed on the question of granting a pardon to Elor Azaria, as I expressed it after the [January] conviction,” the prime minister tweeted as soon as the appeal was rejected. “When the subject comes up [in the context of pardon deliberations], I will offer my recommendation for a pardon to the relevant authorities.”

Liberman requested that Azaria’s family not appeal the decision further, but rather ask IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot for a pardon.

“Now, after a year and a half of troubles, it is time to pardon Elor Azaria. For the sake of our soldiers stationed on the front lines and so as not to lose our deterrence, Elor Azaria must be returned to his home,” Education Minister and Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett declared, while expressing “nothing but trust” in Eisenkot and the IDF.

Azaria ‘Defended the Citizens of Israel’

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz also called for a pardon, with Hotovely calling on President Reuven Rivlin to intervene.

“The judgement in the Elor Azaria case demands a pardon,” Hotovely said within minutes of the announcement of the decision. “I have asked President Rivlin to consider it – the soldier fulfilled his duty and defended the citizens of Israel at a time of a terror attack. He deserves to be pardoned.”

“At a time that Israel is still mourning the slaughter at Neve Tzuf [Halamish, where three members of the Salomon family were killed by a Palestinian terrorist], it is important to remember who the bad guys are and who are the good guys, and that a soldier who kills a terrorist is not a criminal. This episode should be closed with a pardon quickly,” Hotovely said.

Culture Minister Miri Regev also called for a pardon.

“The outstanding soldier Elor Azaria should have been able to go home a long time ago. Now the IDF has the authority to back him up… it is the most basic back up to give a soldier,” said Regev, who is a former IDF Spokeswoman.

On the other side of the political spectrum, left-wing leaders were equally quick to line up in praise of the court.

“The court’s message is no less important [than the sentence itself],” said Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Galon. “The IDF will not be a militia and we will not give legitimacy to soldiers out to take revenge with a gang ethos.”

The Meretz leader expressed full confidence that Rivlin and Eisenkot will not be persuaded to “sweeten” Azaria’s sentence.

By: World Israel News Staff
With files from Andrew Friedman/TPS