Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot an Arab terrorist in the head during a terror attack in Hevron in March, should be pardoned if convicted in a military court, Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett said Saturday night.
Bennett said he supports a pardon for Azaria because it is important to back IDF soldiers in their efforts to protect the country from Arab terrorists. He also said he doubted that Azaria will receive a fair trial.
“I am following the trial, and I have reached the conclusion that if Elor Azaria is convicted, he should receive an immediate pardon and should not sit a single day in jail,” Bennett told Channel 2. “This is the message that must be sent.” Bennett clarified that he did not support shooting innocents, but he said the Arab terrorist shot by Azaria was anything but that.
“I don’t think there is a single soldier who thinks it is permissible to go and shoot a helpless man,” Bennett said.
He compared Azaria to the Bus 300 affair, a 1984 incident in which Shin Bet members executed two Arab bus hijackers, immediately after the hostage crisis incident ended and they had been captured. Then Shin Bet-head Avraham Shalom resigned and was given a full presidential pardon for unspecified crimes, and pardons were granted to others involved before charges were filed against them.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu initially condemned the soldier’s actions, but then reversed course and called his father, Charlie Azaria, on the phone. Then Defense Minister “Bogie” Yaalon condemned his actions before the investigation had begun.
In recent days, the transcript of the telephone conversation has been made public. Charlie Azaria is heard crying, and Netanyahu tells him: “Charlie, I understand what you are feeling. I trust the inquiry.”