A Channel 2 News poll Wednesday showed 67% of Israelis favor a pardon for Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was convicted on manslaughter charges in connection with shooting a terrorist who had already been neutralized in March 2016. Only 19% said they were against a pardon.
But a Panels Politics survey showed a closer split: only 49% support a pardon, compared with 39% who oppose letting the convicted soldier go home.
Knesset Committee Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) posted an online petition calling on President Reuven Rivlin to pardon Azaria, in order to acknowledge that the soldier acted during an ongoing terrorism episode, and “based on on the moral obligation to support our soldiers, regardless of whether or not they made a mistake.”
The petition cites the pardon given by the late President Haim Herzog to GSS senior officials before their trial “over much worse actions.”
President Rivlin’s Office on Wednesday issued a statement of clarification, “in light of several inquiries” the president had received:
“In accordance with standard practice regarding requests for pardons on this or any case, requests for pardons are dealt with when submitted by the applicant themselves, or by one with power of attorney, or an immediate relative, following a conclusive judicial ruling.
“In light of the foregoing, and in relation to the case of the soldier Elor Azaria, in the event that a pardon should be requested, it will be considered by the President in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities.”
MK Bitan’s petition gets past the above legalese, stating unabashedly: “Mr. President, we wish to deliver a clear message to let every Jewish mother who sends her children to protect our country know that a simple soldier is treated the same as a commanding officer – out of our moral obligation to assure the next generation unambiguously that the State of Israel does not abandon its boys and girls.”