Elor Azaria wearing a shirt with the Star of David as he enters prison in August, 2017.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Yaron Mazuz is thought to be one of about 30% of the Likud’s current MKs who won’t make it back into the next Knesset.
But he revealed a secret weapon in his campaign ahead of the February 5 primary in the form of Elor Azaria, the soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing an already subdued Palestinian terrorist.
Mazuz said in a video posted to his Facebook page on Wednesday: “I am sitting next to my friend Elor Azaria, whom we enlisted to our primaries campaign, and with God’s help, together with him, we will succeed.”
The video ended with a picture of Mazuz and Azaria, who appeared to be laughing together.
Mazuz gave Azaria a paid position on his campaign, and called him “intelligent and diligent,” Channel 12 reported.
“We have to support our soldiers and let them act according to the threats they face in the battlefield,” Mazuz told Channel 12. “We cannot tie their hands and neuter them when facing vile murderers.”Azaria has been the subject of deep controversy
in Israel since he was caught on camera in March 2016 killing Palestinian terrorist Abdel Fatah al-Sharif, who was subdued after stabbing an IDF soldier
. Azaria, a former combat medic, served 14 months of an 18-month manslaughter sentence.
Many Likud MKs thought Azaria should not have been put on trial and showed support for him and his family, and far-right groups held rallies for Azaria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed his position on the matter, saying immediately after the incident that it did not “represent the values of the IDF,” but called Azaria’s father days later to tell him to have faith in the army. In April 2016, he said: “Our soldiers are not murderers. They act against murderers.”
Then-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, however, released a statement at the time of Azaria’s early release that his “conduct was improper and violated the army’s rules and values,” and that his request for a pardon was not accepted because he “did not take responsibility for the act and... did not express regret.”
In an interview with Channel 12 this month, upon finishing his term as chief of staff, Eisenkot said Azaria is not a hero.
“I see this as a serious incident that should not have happened, in which a soldier breaks the law, violates his orders and the spirit of the IDF,” Eisenkot said. “In some places, unfortunately, he was accepted as a hero. But he is far from a hero; he’s more like an antihero.”