IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter Wednesday for the shooting death of a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron last March. Azaria was caught on video shooting by the left-wing B’tselem organization shooting a person who was lying on the ground and appeared to pose no immediate threat.
Justices rejected Azaria’s claim that believed the man, who had just stabbed a soldier at the site, was wired with a suicide belt and still posed a threat. Justices said there was “no basis” Azaria’s argument that he acted in self-defense.”There was no immediate danger when the terrorist laid on the floor,” said Colonel Maya Heller, the lead justice on the case. Military prosecutors argued that Azaria violated standing IDF rules of engagement without military justification and charged him with manslaughter.
The incident sparked an intense public debate in Israel, with senior politicians and military brass coming out fiercely both in support of and against the soldier. Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz who described the incident as “very severe,” and IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizenkot said the shooting “ran counter to the professional and ethical norms of behavior demanded of IDF troops.”
On the other hand, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called for Azaria to be pardoned.“There is no soldier who doesn’t know that it’s against the rules to shoot a neutralized terrorist. On the other hand, it is necessary to support our soldiers in the field who are risking their lives in the face of murderous terrorism,” Bennett said.
MK Nahman Shai (Zionist Camp” said “we should congratulate the military court. The verdict is not limited to the specific case of Elor Azaria. Rather, it sends a clear message to all IDF soldiers and commanders and it ensures that our founding values, and most of all our military ethics will continue to guide us like a light in the darkness… the IDF will continue to act ethically,” Shai said.
Deputy Knesset Speaker Yuli Hasson said the entire trial was unnecessary because it was clear from the outset that Azaria had violated the IDF’s code of ethics. “He should have been kicked out of the army shamefacedly and we would have saved Israeli society and the army this entire process.”
Hasson blasted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman as the first person to “sully’ this trial. “He incited the anger against the IDF, against the court and against the media and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the La Familia terror group [editor’s note: La Familia is known for their support of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team and is considered strongly anti-Arab.] .
“How ironic for La Familia to be blocking traffic right under Liberman’s office window, and he will have to deal with the fallout from his irresponsible behavior. The defense minister now has the responsibility to prove that IDF values are supreme, and that the spirit of the IDF – not the spirit of La Familia – have won,” Hasson said.
Minister of Culture and Sport, MK Miri Regev (Likud) called for amnesty for Azaria, and agreed with Yuli Hasson that the incident should never have led to a trial.
“I intend to work in order for Elor Azaria to be granted amnesty. This is a trial that should never have started. [It was a] military incident in which a terrorist was killed by the IDF, it should not have reached the criminal sphere. If Azaria violated military procedure, he should be called for a disciplinary hearing by the brigade commander.
“Unfortunately, the main court in the case was nothing more than field justice, where politicians and commentators passed judgement on Elor even before the end of the military investigation. This conduct sends a clear message to our soldiers: you are alone out there. Soldiers encounter difficult challenges, and this verdict essentially means the soldier is on his own. I want to support Elor Azaria and his family in these difficult times.”