Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hinted on Tuesday that he would support a pardon for IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted in January of manslaughter in the killing of a Palestinian stabber in Chevron.
Mr. Liberman did not comment directly on the Azaria case. But referring to a British court ruling to shorten the sentence of Alexander Blackman, a Royal Marine convicted of killing a wounded Taliban terrorist in Afghanistan, Liberman wrote: “In Britain they understand that you need to be lenient with soldiers fighting terrorists, even if they have made a mistake.”
The parallel between the two cases was made in an article cited by Liberman that called Blackman “the British Elor Azaria.”
Blackman was convicted of murder and sentenced to a minimum of ten years by a military court in 2013 for the September 2011 killing in Helmand Province. The ruling on Tuesday means he will likely be released from prison within weeks. Azaria is currently serving an 18-month sentence.
Liberman was one of a number of right-wing politicians who have called for Azaria’s release or pardon. However, after taking over as defense minister, he has refrained from taking sides in the matter and counseled his colleagues to do likewise.
The counsel went unheeded. After the sentencing, on February 27, Education Minister Naftali Bennett declared, “The security of the citizens of Israel requires an immediate pardon for Elor Azaria, who was sent to protect us. The process was tainted from its foundation. It is forbidden for Elor to sit in jail because we will all pay the price.”
The controversy has not been divided strictly on ideological lines, however.
Likud’s Yehudah Glick said: “I praise the military legal system for its balanced sentence.”
On the other hand, Zionist Camp MK Shelly Yachimovich came out in favor of a pardon.
In any event, the power of pardon resides with President Reuven Rivlin, not Liberman. Pres. Rivlin’s office said recently in response to queries, that defendants, rather than politicians, must apply for clemency and that requests will only be dealt with after all legal proceedings have ended.