Elor Azaria's release from military prison on Tuesday stirred mixed thoughts and feelings among Israelis. Notable figures in the Israeli political arena and spheres of government have weighed in on Azaria's release upon completion of nine months of his original fourteen-month sentence for shooting dead a disarmed Palestinian terrorist in Hebron in March 2016,
"The State of Israel has done a great injustice to Elor Azaria," tweeted Deputy Knesset Speaker Nava Boker. "There is no factual finding that can prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that Azaria acted willingly to avenge and not out of real fear. Therefore, this is one of the greatest injustices committed in Israel. A continuing injustice that was accepted by the judges of the military court in the various courts, by the chief of staff, by the president of the state and by the parole board."
"The high echelons and the decision-makers did not understand what the public understood—we sent Elor to fight in our name and defend us," and continued. "And when he made a mistake, if he made a mistake, he did so under conditions of combat..."
"Congratulations on your release. Best wishes and good luck down the road," Boker concluded.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev spoke Tuesday morning with Charlie Azaria, the father of Elor. "Congratulations, I'm both happy and excited for you," she said to the father of Elor. "I wish for Elor that another life will begin now—a quiet life, after all that has passed, and you as a family who accompanied him and supported him at every moment, will return to normalcy."
Regev, who has made a point in visiting the parents of Elor on multiple occasions, promised to continue to stand with Elor as he makes his transition into civilian life. "After the stage that he returns to normal life, we will begin to work to erase his criminal record so that this record will not interfere with his future," Regev said.
"A long and difficult period in which an outstanding soldier was sitting in jail for the elimination of a terrorist..." MK Oren Hazan from the Likud party said. "Elor, my brother. My apologies for not doing enough. If only this country had leadership as it did in the days of the Bus 300 incident, everything would have been different."
The Bus 300 incident refers to a security scandal in 1984, in which members of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Forces) were caught in a lie after they reported that four terrorists were captured dead after hijacking a public bus, while photos showed security forces detaining two live terrorists.
The Israeli security personnel involved in the operation were found guilty of manslaughter in court and were later pardoned by then president Chaim Herzog.
MK Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List party slammed what he called "the forgiving and sympathetic reactions of the prime minister and his ministers," regarding Azaria's release.
"The forgiving and sympathetic attitude we witnessed in the Azaria affair which reached its peak today upon his release turns Azaria from a murderer into a hero, and only welcomes the next murder."
Jabarin added: "The courtroom pointed to the conviction and severity that the judges attributed to Azaria's behavior, for which he has yet to express remorse. It is infuriating to see Azaria free after only nine months in prison. His release today conveys a difficult message that Palestinian blood is a waste."
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