Elor Azaria sits to hear his verdict in a military court in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 4, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized the manslaughter conviction handed down to Elor Azaria as a “difficult and painful day for all of us.”
Tensions running high shortly before verdict in Hebron shooting case given to Elor Azaria (credit: REUTERS)
In a statement released some eight hours after the conviction – long after many other politicians had already reacted – Netanyahu said it was painful “first and foremost for Elor and his family, IDF soldiers, and many citizens and parents of our soldiers, myself included.”
Netanyahu said he supported a pardon for the soldier.
“I call on all citizens to behave responsibly toward the IDF, its officers and the chief of staff,” he said. “We have one army which is the foundation of our existence.
The IDF soldiers are the sons and daughters of all of us, and they must remain above all disagreements.”
Netanyahu has come under criticism over the last nine months for various comments made on this issue, initially criticizing the soldier, but later calling the family to express support.
Immediately after the incident, Netanyahu issued a statement that “the IDF expects its soldiers to behave with composure and in accordance with the rules of engagement,” adding that the incident in Hebron does not “represent the values of the IDF.” Two days later he wrote a Facebook post saying, “The IDF is a moral army that does not execute people. IDF soldiers have absorbed with their bodies the terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens and deserve support.” He said he trusted that the IDF would conduct a thorough and fair investigation “as it always does.”
Nevertheless, he called Azaria’s father shortly afterward. Months later he defended that phone call, saying he told Azaria’s father to have faith in the army.
“You know what I told him? Word for word: Place your trust in the IDF, in the chief of staff, in our commanders and soldiers and our justice system,” Netanyahu said. He went on to compare Azaria’s parents to those of soldiers who die or go missing in combat, a statement for which he later apologized, following a public outcry.
In April, Netanyahu said, “Our soldiers are not murderers. They act against murderers, and I hope that the way will be found to balance between the action and the overall context of the incident.”
The next day he said that he was certain that the military court would take into account all the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“As a father of a soldier and the prime minister, I want to say again that the IDF backs up its soldiers,” he said. “In my familiarity with the military justice system, I am convinced that the court will consider all circumstances regarding the incident.”