In response to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor LIeberman’s request from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to pardon Elor Azaria, the IDF Chief of Staff recommended this evening, that the request be denied.

Eizenkot (left), Azaria (center), Lieberman (right)

Eizenkot (left), Azaria (center), Lieberman (right) Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Earlier today, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman asked Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to approve Hebron shooter Elor Azaria’s request for a pardon and to release him from prison. This evening, the IDF Chief of Staff, together with the Military Advocate General and the head of the Personnel Directorate, recommended that Azaria’s request, be denied.

The three sent a detailed report to the defense minister as per the protocol and advised that Azaria not be granted a pardon nor released from his prison sentence. The defense minister chose to ignore their recommendations, however, and appealed directly to the president to grant Azaria’s request.

President Rivlin

President Rivlin Photo Credit: Hadas Parush, Flash90/Channel 2 News

“I was among many who believed the circumstances did not warrant prosecuting the soldier,” Lieberman wrote to Rivlin, calling Azaria “a distinguished soldier.” “But after he was prosecuted, and after the court handed down its verdict, I stood beside the military justice system and announced publicly, despite the harsh criticism I faced, that we are living in a state of law and must accept the verdict.”

Lieberman added that pardoning Azaria may help ease the division that was created in the Israeli society following the incident. “I believe one should consider, in this exceptional case, the public interest, the need to sew shut the wounds in our society and the impact of this incident on citizens of this country and IDF soldiers,” he wrote.

Although the President’s office responded that Rivlin will examine all options once he returns from abroad, he is expected to side with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and heed his recommendation since Eizenkot is the one charged with upholding the values ​​of the IDF. Yet, despite the difference of opinion, the issue is not expected to lead to a rift between Lieberman and Eizenkot.