The Israeli paper Maariv has reported that President Reuven Rivlin might grant a pardon to Elor Azarya, the soldier-medic who shot and killed an incapacitated Palestinian at point-blank range in March 2016, despite having refused to do so last month. Maariv cites sources “close to the President”. The settler-outlet Israel National News has also picked up the story.
Rivlin could in principle pardon Azarya fully today if he wanted to. But according to the sources, the pardon being considered would take effect on Israel’s 70th Independence Day, which this year occurs on the 18th of April.
Both outlets seem to take it as a given that Azarya would be out in any case in May 2018. By that time, a third of his term could be cut for ‘good behavior’. Azarya began serving his 18 month sentence last August, after which it was immediately cut by four months by the army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. The military statement said that Azarya had already “endured a lot”.
Such a move by the President would win him back a few points with the Azarya supporters, whilst costing relatively little for his international reputation as ‘moral and balanced’.
If the pardon occurs, we are bound to see an Independence Day like no other, where Israel celebrates not only its ‘liberation’ in a national sense, but also the ‘liberation’ of its killers from prison.
H/t Yoav Litvin