Elor Azaria wearing a shirt with the Star of David as he enters prison in August, 2017.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
The IDF Parole Board has ordered that Hebron shooter Elor Azaria be released on May 10, after serving only nine months of a 14-month sentence.
In November, President Reuven Rivlin rejected Azaria’s request to commute the 12-month remainder of his sentence for manslaughter.
The planned early release is a partial success for Azaria, who had asked the board to free him before the upcoming holiday of Passover.
Azaria was already given leniency by the original court that sentenced him, which said that his strong and clean record and the stress of the operational situation had led to a lighter sentence.
Moreover, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot commuted Azaria’s sentence in September 2017 from 18 to 14 months – meaning his sentence had been effectively reduced twice even before he was granted an early release by the parole board.
IDF soldier shoots dead subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, part of Elor Azaria case
This was still not enough for much of the political class, who had called for him to receive an outright pardon without serving a day behind bars.
But when Rivlin rejected Azaria’s request for a broad commutation of his sentence, he said he thought “an additional lightening of your sentence would harm the resilience of the IDF and the State of Israel. The IDF’s values, including the ‘purity of arms,’ are the core foundation of the strength of the IDF,” and have helped Israel “in the just struggle for our right to a safe, national home, and in building a robust society.”
Rivlin’s rejection letter also foreshadowed the parole board’s decision, as his staff wrote: “In his decision, the president took into account the fact that you are expected to face a committee in approximately three months, to consider your release.”
While Rivlin was criticized for that decision, the early release by the IDF parole board is likely to be received positively by much of the country’s political class.
Azaria entered jail on August 9, after being convicted of manslaughter for shooting Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif on March 24, 2016.
Videos of the incident, which went viral and brought widespread international condemnation, show Azaria shooting the incapacitated terrorist while he was lying on the ground – although Azaria claimed his shots were in self-defense and he feared a possible knife attack or concealed explosive vest.