Netanyahu calls for pardoning Elor Azariya

Israeli politicians respond to rejection of Azariya appeal, call for family to seek pardon rather than pursue further appeals.

Gary Willig ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Marc Israel Sellem/POOL

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu repeated his call for former Sgt. Elor Azariya to be pardoned following the rejection of Azariya's appeal Sunday afternoon.

"My opinion has not changed with regard to granting amnesty to Elor Azaria, as I said after the verdict [in February]," Netanyahu wrote on Twitter following the court's decision Sunday.

"When the subject is brought up for practical discussion, I will forward my recommendation for amnesty to the relevant parties," the Prime Minister added.

Azariya had appealed the manslaughter conviction over his March 2016 shooting of a wounded Arab terrorist.

In its decision Sunday, the appeals court also refused to reduce Azariya's sentence, saying that his 18-month jail term would remain in place pending an appeal from the prosecution, which has called for it to be increased, recommending three years imprisonment.

Other politicians also weighed in on the decision.

Education Minister Bennett responded to the appeals court decision by calling on President Reuven Rivlin to pardon Azariya. "The decision is a tough one, but the court must be respected," Bennett said. "Now, after a year and a half of trials, it is time to pardon Elor Azariya. "For the sake of our fighters on the front line and in order to prevent the loss of our deterrent power, Elor Azariya must return home."

Bennett appealed to civilians to refrain from attacks on the IDF and its commanders in light of the court's decision: "I have full confidence in Chief of Staff Eizenkot and the IDF commanders ... In no scenario is there any room for calls [for violence] as were heard in the past."

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman appealed to the Azariya family to pursue a pardon rather than file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

"This is not an easy day, but this is the verdict and the court must be respected," Liberman wrote on his Twitter account: "I ask the Azariya family not to continue the appeals process and to bring this affair to an end as soon as possible...It is time to file a request for pardon from the Chief of Staff and I have no doubt that he will take the difficult circumstances into account."

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely also called for Azariya to be pardoned. "I approached President Rivlin on this issue through a letter that I sent ... The soldier fulfilled his duty and defended the citizens of Israel during a terror attack, It is important to remember who the bad guys and the good guys are, and that a soldier who kills a terrorist is not a criminal."

Culture Minister Miri Regev said that "Azariya should have been sent home long ago."