Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday asked President Reuven Rivlin to approve the pardon plea of Elor Azaria, who had been convicted of killing an Arab terrorist who had already been downed in Hebron in March, 2016. But on Sunday night, Israeli media reported that the IDF Chief of Staff, the Military Advocate General, and the head of the IDF Personnel Directorate, have all recommended that the request for pardon not be accepted, contrary to the Minister’s position.
The three senior officers had submitted their objections to Defense Minister, who chose to ignore them. It is estimated that the president will not embrace Liberman’s request but stick instead to the position of Chief of the Staff Lieutenant general Gadi Eizenkot, and it remains to be see whether the incident would lead to a rift between Minister Liberman and Eizenkot.
About three weeks ago Azaria submitted a request to be pardoned by President Rivlin, writing it in a way that practically guaranteed that his plea would be rejected. “Unfortunately, I did not receive justice – this is my feeling and nothing can change it,” he wrote, adding, “In any case, I ask of the honorable President for a measure of mercy, which is the essence of the pardon institution.”
The president can’t possibly accept this request, since granting a the pardon without an expression of regret on the part of Azaria would confirm his claim that he had not received a fair trial,
The Chief of Staff has already cut four months off of Azaria’s 18 months sentence.
The defense minister, who had been on Azaria’s side since the beginning, when Liberman was yet to join PM Netanyahu’s cabinet, also wrote President Rivlin that, in his opinion, “Elor and his family paid a heavy personal price in dealing with the trial.”
“I believe that this unique case should also be considered in light the public interest,” Liberman added. “The need to heal the rifts in society, and the impact of the incident and the trial on the citizens of the state and on IDF soldiers in the face of the enemy.”