Ministers Criticize Rivlin for Rejecting Pardon

Supports of Elor Azaria demonstrate in front of President Reuven Rivlin’s residence on Motzoei Shabbos. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two senior members of the government were critical of President Reuven Rivlin’s decision to reject former IDF soldier Elor Azaria’s request for a pardon from the sentence he is serving on a conviction of manslaughter in the killing of a disarmed terrorist.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who had sent a letter to the president two weeks ago asking him to pardon Azaria, said in a statement that while he “appreciates” the president, he wishes to “express sorrow” over the decision.

Liberman faulted Rivlin, who “had an opportunity to put an end to this episode, which roiled Israeli society,” he said.

“In addition to the personal price paid by the soldier and his family,” he says, it was “in the public’s interest in this unique case to consider also the public interest, the need to mend the rips in Israeli society, and the impact the trial had on IDF soldiers and on youth who are soon to be inducted.”

He added that Azaria was “a standout soldier” who killed “a terrorist.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett made a call to Azaria’s mother in which he said, “I regret the decision to not pardon Elor,” according to The Times of Israel.

“Give Elor and [his father] Charlie my love. We have no other country and we cannot despair. We must hold our heads high and be strong.”

Azaria was sentenced to 18 months for manslaughter in February, but that was reduced to 14 months by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot in September; but the president, who said he would consider the case after Eisenkot, has the authority to reduce it further or release him immediately.

Rivlin said he took that into account, along with the decision of the trial judges, combined with the fact that Azaria will face a review panel that will consider his release in three months.

“Any further reductions in the sentence of Azaria would harm the integrity of the IDF and the State of Israel,” wrote Rivlin.