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.

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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