Analysis: What’s next for the Hebron shooter?

Overall, there is a feeling that the sentence is likely to be a few years, but at the end of the day, it is a wide open game.

January 5, 2017 06:07
1 minute read.
Hebron shooter

A supporter of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter by the Israeli military, wears a shirt depicting Azaria with the words in Hebrew "Bringing the light back to Elor" during a protest outside the military court in Tel Aviv on the verdict day for the soldier, Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Nobody, including the IDF Prosecution or Elor Azaria’s defense team, know how much jail time they will ask for, let alone what the Jaffa Military Court will decide.

However, there are a few useful parameters which will inform the decision.

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First, the maximum punishment for manslaughter is 20 years, whereas the maximum punishment for negligent homicide is three years. Most cases of negligent homicide end in an average of a six-month sentence.

The problem is there are much fewer cases of manslaughter in the IDF, especially for a soldier shooting someone while in the field. The last remotely comparable case is that of Taysur Hayab, who shot and killed a British man during a protest in 2003.

Hayab was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Tensions running high shortly before verdict in Hebron shooting case given to Elor Azaria (credit: REUTERS)

From one perspective, the conviction was so one-sided against Azaria that there are fewer grounds for leniency than might have been expected in a verdict that granted him some points. But maybe some of the issues Azaria raised and the court rejected regarding his innocence will be looked at more favorably at sentencing – which mixes justice and mercy.

Also, the British man was a civilian, and Abdel Fatah al-Sharif, even if he was neutralized, was a Palestinian who had stabbed an Israeli soldier 15 minutes earlier. This could get Azaria more lenient treatment.

The conviction has also opened a gaping wound in Israeli society, and a lighter sentence of a few years might lower the temperature if the court is concerned about that – and they can consider such broader issues at sentencing even if they cannot at the verdict stage.

Moving in the other direction, a too lenient sentence could squelch some of the benefit on the international side in terms of how international critics view Israel. And the IDF Prosecution may decide to go for a stiffer sentence to make an example of Azaria.

Overall, there is a feeling that the sentence is likely to be a few years, but at the end of the day, it is a wide open game.

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