JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a pardon for the Israeli soldier who shot a downed Palestinian terrorist.
Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter on Wednesday in a military court.
“This is a difficult and painful day for all of us – and first and foremost for Elor and his family, for IDF soldiers, for many soldiers and for the parents of our soldiers, and me among them,” Netanyahu said in a statement posted on Facebook and Twitter.
The statement also said: “I urge all citizens to act responsibly toward the IDF, the officers, and the IDF chief. We have one army, which is the basis of our existence. The soldiers of the IDF are our sons and daughters, and they need to remain above dispute.
“I support a pardon for Elor Azaria,” the statement concluded.
President Reuven Rivlin’s office issued a statement saying that “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 Rivlin statement appears to have been issued following the calls from lawmakers and reports that at least one lawmaker had requested a pardon. It said a properly submitted pardon request “will be considered by the President in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities.”
Azaria, a medic in the elite Kfir Brigade, arrived on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack last March on soldiers in Hebron in the West Bank, a flashpoint for Palestinian violence against Jewish Israelis.
One assailant was killed and another, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head in a scene that was captured on video by a local resident for the Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem. Azaria was arrested the same day and indicted nearly a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots by Azaria killed Sharif.
Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.