Netanyahu calls to pardon Elor Azaria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized the manslaughter conviction handed down Wednesday to Elor Azaria for killing a terrorist as a “difficult and painful day.”

Netanyahu said he supported a pardon for the soldier.

The statement read: “In accordance with standard practice regarding requests for pardons on this or any case, requests for pardons are dealt with when submitted by the applicant themselves, or by one with power of attorney, or an immediate relative, following a conclusive judicial ruling.”

The statement continued: “In light of the foregoing, and in relation to the case of the soldier Elor Azaria, in the event that a pardon should be requested, it will be considered by the President in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities.”

Azaria is scheduled to be sentenced on January 15.

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Netanyahu has come under criticism over the last nine months for various comments he made on this issue, initially criticizing the soldier, but later calling the family to express support.

Immediately after the incident, Netanyahu issued a statement that “the IDF expects its soldiers to behave with composure and in accordance with the rules of engagement,” adding that the incident in Hevron does not “represent the values of the IDF.”

Two days later he wrote a Facebook post saying, “The IDF is a moral army that does not execute people. IDF soldiers have absorbed with their bodies the terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens and deserve support.” He said he trusted that the IDF would conduct a thorough and fair investigation “as it always does.”

Netanyahu called Azaria’s father shortly afterward.

“You know what I told him? Word for word: Place your trust in the IDF, in the chief of staff, in our commanders and soldiers and our justice system,” Netanyahu said.

In April, Netanyahu said, “Our soldiers are not murderers. They act against murderers, and I hope that the way will be found to balance between the action and the overall context of the incident.”

“As a father of a soldier and the prime minister, I want to say again that the IDF backs up its soldiers,” he said. “In my familiarity with the military justice system, I am convinced that the court will consider all circumstances regarding the incident.”

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