Chief of Staff Hints at No Breaks for Azaria on Eve of Decision

Elor Azaria in a military court in Jaffa. (Flash90)

The family of IDF soldier Elor Azaria slammed IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott on Tuesday for remarks he made earlier in a speech regarding the outcome of Azaria’s trial. A decision in the case of the soldier who was accused of disobeying orders when he neutralized an Arab terrorist stabber in Chevron is set to be handed down Wednesday.

“On the eve of the decision, the Chief of Staff has found one more opportunity to interfere in the trial. The decision tomorrow will affect not only Elor Azaria, but all IDF soldiers, with the question being whether or not the army will continue to defend its soldiers, or if the army’s priorities have changed,” the family said in a statement.

Azaria is on trial for shooting at a terrorist in Chevron on Purim morning when he was neutralized and on the ground, after having been shot when he tried to stab soldiers. He is being tried on charges of manslaughter and conduct unbecoming an IDF soldier.

Evidence on the culpability of the soldier has been mixed, with footage and testimony surfacing that either indicate that the soldier was justified in his claimed fears that the terrorist, who was still alive, could have set off a bomb he may have been carrying on his person, or that he was completely immobilized and “deserved to die,” as some witnesses have claimed that the soldier said. Azaria has been under base arrest for the past six months, meaning that he has been required to remain on base and was allowed to leave only on very rare occasions.

The trial has been very emotional, not only for the family, but for the families of many soldiers, who believe that Azaria is being treated unfairly for defending his fellow soldiers, even if according to the strict letter of the law he should not have opened fire. Speaking Tuesday, Eisenkott said that the concern about how “our son,” as many families have come to regard Azaria, was misplaced. “An 18-year-old soldier should not be seen as an innocent boy,” Eisenkott said. “He is a soldier, a fighter, who is expected to sacrifice himself in order to carry out his assignments. He is not allowed to get ‘confused.’ The orders on when to open fire have not changed in a decade.”

Eisenkott also stressed that as far as he knew, the wave of sympathy many in Israeli society have for Azaria has not affected the trial. “This misplaced sympathy is a confusion of all of the things we demand from our soldiers,” he added.