Israelis back presidential pardon for Elor Azariya

By double-digit margin, Israelis favor presidential pardon for Elor Azariya. Israelis also back Hotovely following controversial comments.

David Rosenberg,

Elor Azariya
Elor Azariya

A majority of Israelis believe former IDF soldier Elor Azariya, who was convicted of manslaughter for the shooting death of a wounded terrorist, should be granted a presidential pardon and freed from prison, a new poll shows.

In March 2016, Elor Azariya, then an IDF sergeant, shot and killed a wounded Arab terrorist in Hevron, shortly after a stabbing attack that left one soldier wounded.

While Azariya claimed that the shooting was justified, due to his own state fear that the terrorist may have had a bomb concealed in his jacket, an army court found Azariya guilty of manslaughter in January 2017. A month later, Azariya was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot later cut four months from the sentence, in response to an appeal by Azariya’s legal defense team. Azariya began serving his 14-month reduced sentence in August.

After entering prison, Azariya appealed to President Reuven Rivlin for a pardon, only to be rejected in November.

In his response, the president wrote that any pardon or further reduction of the sentence would “harm the resilience to the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel.”

But a poll conducted by Tel Aviv University in conjunction with the Israel Democracy Institute shows that an absolute majority of Israelis believe Rivlin was wrong to deny the pardon request.

Among Israeli Jews, 53.2% say the president erred in denying the request, compared to 37.7% who say he made the right decision.

Israeli Arabs, on the other hand, generally backed the president’s decision to deny the pardon request, with just 24.1% backing a pardon, compared to 52.9% who said the president’s response was the proper one.

The survey also shows a majority backing Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s controversial statements last month regarding American Jewry.

Speaking with i24 News last month, Hotovely discussed the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, touching on issues such as the Reform Movement’s demands for an expanded mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall and Israel’s defensive operations against terrorists and other hostile forces.

During the course of the discussion, Hotovely claimed that because American Jews were not obligated to serve in the military and were not living in the Middle East, did not understanding the “complexity of the region.”

“The other issue is not understanding the complexity of the region,” she said. “Most [American] Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having [sic] quite comfortable lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel deals with on a daily basis.”

Hotovely’s comments provoked an outcry both in Israel and the United States, prompting an apology by the Deputy Foreign Minister. According to one report, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu considered firing Hotovely over her comments, as the Reform Movement had demanded.

An overwhelming majority of Israelis believe Hotovely should not be fired, despite calls for her dismissal. Just 21.2% of Israeli Jews believe Hotovely should have been fired, compared to 71.2% who said she should not be.

A narrow majority agreed with Hotovely’s comments regarding American Jewry, with 51% saying her statements were correct, compared to 44.7% who said they were wrong.

Turning to the Israel-Diaspora relationship, 47.5% of Israeli Jews believe Jews in the US and Israel have more that unites them than divides them, while 24% say that there is just as many differences as common features, while 12.5% say there is more that divides American Jews and Israeli Jews than brings them together.

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