Netanyahu reiterates support for Azaria pardon after court rejects defense’s appeal

Israeli politicians were quick to weigh in on the court’s decision to reject Elor Azaria’s appeal. “The time has come to pardon Elor Azaria,” Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said.
Azaria and his mother, today Photo Credit: Tomer Appelbaum/Channel 2 News

A military court ruled to reject Elor Azaria’s appeal on Sunday, meaning that his manslaughter conviction remains and he will need to serve the 18-month sentence he received a few months ago. The court’s ruling sparked a wave of responses within Israel’s political system. “I’ll give my recommendations for a pardon to the relevant people,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post.

“My opinion has not changed regarding granting a pardon to Elor Azaria,” the post continued. “When the topic will come up for a real discussion, I will give my recommendations for a pardon to the relevant people.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also commented on the court’s decision and called on the public to respect the ruling. “This isn’t an easy day but this is the ruling and the court must be respected,” Lieberman said. The minister also asked that the Azaria family refrain from submitting another appeal so that the affair can come to an end. “This is the time to request a pardon from the IDF chief of staff,” he continued. “I have no doubt that he will take into account the difficult circumstances and the pain the family went through and the fact that we are talking about an outstanding soldier.”

Azaria and his family, today Photo Credit: Avshalom Sasoni/Flash 90

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the verdict, echoing Lieberman’s statements. “Now, after a year and a half of hardship, the time has come to pardon Elor Azaria,” he said. “For the sake of our soldiers who are on the frontline of the battle and in order to prevent the loss of our deterrent power, Elor Azaria must return home.”

The Israeli President’s Residence said in a statement: “If Elor Azaria contacts both the president and the chief of staff asking for a pardon, it is highly likely that the president will allow the chief of staff to use all of the tools at his disposal within the IDF and not act in parallel with the chief of staff.”

In March 2016, Azaria shot a neutralized terrorist who had just carried out a stabbing attack in Hebron. The incident was caught on camera and went viral, making headlines worldwide and sparking public debate in Israel and abroad. Azaria was convicted of manslaughter in early 2017 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

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