Arutz Sheva interview
'Yaalon sacrificing Hevron soldier for Israeli PR'

MK David Bitan calls on Reuven Rivlin to pardon IDF soldier who shot neutralized terrorist, notes anyone can make a mistake.

Shimon Cohen,

Elor Azariya in court with his parents
Elor Azariya in court with his parents
Flash 90

President Reuven Rivlin should pardon Elor Azariya, the soldier who controversially shot dead a neutralized terrorist, MK David Bitan (Likud) opined in a special Arutz Sheva interview Sunday. 

Bitan is heading a petition to call on Rivlin to issue the pardon, he explained, noting that it has had some difficulty taking off due to most of the coverage being through Facebook. 

Despite this, he hopes to gather over 100,000 signatures on the petition within the next two to three months. 

"Ultimately, we will reach our goal. I believe that we will reach this goal," he stated. "I have been talking about [El-Or] getting a pardon from the beginning, but now we are taking the practical step of organizing a petition." 

Bitan sharply criticized the IDF in light of a recent report that they blamed his actions on a "twisted ideology." 

"I do not understand the army, with all due respect to them," he said. "I think the IDF and Defense Minister [Moshe Ya'alon] are sacrificing soldiers for the sake of Israeli public relations abroad and it is wrong."

"The military judge also said the evidence is very weak," he added, noting the Magen David Adom (MDA) investigation validating the soldier holds up in court. "I ask a very simple question - why did medics and paramedics not treat the [terrorist] for six minutes until [Azariya] shot him? Because they feared a [suicide] bomb."

"So I do not accept the IDF's claim that the terrorist was neutralized and it was clear that he was not armed with a bomb," he continued. "Events on the ground suggest otherwise."

Bitan explained that propaganda against Israel abroad stating that the IDF was killing Palestinians for no reason at all began circulating some two weeks before the incident in question. The incident itself merely happened at the wrong time, he said - causing the IDF and Defense Minister to prioritize the publicity over the facts. 

This said, he added that Azariya is not absent of wrongdoing in shooting the terrorist, which was after all "a mistake in judgement." Outside of this, however, "there really is no argument." 

"After all, if he did have an explosive belt, [Azariya] would be considered a hero," Bitan argued. "We have to give support to our soldiers even if they make mistakes, in order to combat terrorism." 

The trial will hurt future IDF soldiers, he said, as well as parents who will fear that their children may face vilification for making mistakes. 

As for Ya'alon, he said, the Defense Minister "does not represent Likud voters" on this issue.