Fifty-five Israeli lawmakers, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, have signed a petition to the President today, for him to reconsider his decision not to pardon Elor Azarya, the soldier-medic who killed an incapacitated Palestinian with a bullet to the head in March 2016.
In addition to Netanyahu, the petition included Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Welfare Minister Haim Katz, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, as the Times of Israel reported today.
The letter stated that Azarya had “already suffered enough” – echoing the military statement two months ago that Azarya had “endured a lot”. At that time, the military command commuted Azarya’s original 18 month sentence by four months.
The lawmakers’ petition said that “the Azaria affair is tearing Israeli society apart, creating polarization and division”, that it is “impossible to ignore the feelings of the general public” and that “Azaria is a scapegoat who has become a symbol and paid an especially high price”.
The latter seems to echo the popular Azarya campaign slogan, that “Azarya is paying for us all” – the slogan that appeared on grocery bags freely distributed in a major Israeli supermarket chain.
The high price – the original 18 months for ‘manslaughter’, in a case that started out as ‘murder’ — is a laughable sentence, in light of the court’s own finding that the “level of guilt of the defendant” is of “excessive egregiousness”. And after that price was reduced in September by 4 months, there is an expectation of Azarya’s release by spring for ‘good behavior’.
These lawmakers are throwing their bodies down to save this “normative” and “positive personality” as the court said (albeit one that supports genocide), so that he would not have to endure this winter in a prison. They are going out of their way, and even beyond the law: as a spokesperson of the President’s office pointed out, “applications for pardon can only be made by the person himself, his attorney or his first-degree relatives”.
But Azarya truly appears to be “everyone’s child”, as the campaign also calls him. It’s one big family – ‘La Familia’, one could say, like the name of the far-right soccer-fan group of Beitar Jerusalem, the crowd that Azarya supports, and which supports him. Here they are chanting in a stadium “Elor Azarya we love you” and:
“If you don’t return the child we will turn over the country”.
Will the President manage to withstand the pressure? Will he be overwhelmed by all this love and solidarity, as well as concern for the well-being of the nation?
Let’s not miss the next episode in the Azarya reality show. Never a dull moment.