PM, MKs sign Azaria pardon request letter
Netanyahu, Lieberman, Shaked among senior officials who sign letter beseeching President Rivlin to reconsider pardoning Elor Azaria; 'Pardon requests may only be made by person in question, their attorneys or their family,' President's Residence says, adding additional request may only be made 6 months after previous denial.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined a list of MKs in signing a letter appealing to President Reuven Rivlin to reconsider pardoning former soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of manslaughter for shooting a neutralized terrorist and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
In addition to the prime minister, Ministers Avigdor Lieberman, Ayelet Shaked, Ze'ev Elkin and Haim Katz signed the letter as well.
Sources within the President's Residence responded they had yet to receive the letter and vowed it would be given the appropriate reply once reviewed. However, the sources said, "Requests for pardons are only accepted from the person in question, their attorneys or first degree relatives."
"In addition, it's important to remember that according to long-standing policy on pardons, an additional request for pardon may only be made six months after the president's decision on the previous request, unless a significant change in circumstances occurred," the sources clarified.
President Rivlin rejected Azaria's pardon request last week. "The President concluded that taking all considerations into account ... an additional lightening of your sentence would harm the resilience to the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel," Rivlin wrote in a letter to Azaria explaining his decision.
"The values of the Israel Defense Forces, and among them the Purity of Arms, are the core foundation of the strength of the Israel Defense Forces, and have always stood strong for us in the just struggle for our right to a safe, national home, and in the building a robust society," the letter continued.
Azaria filed his request a month ago, telling the president: "I unfortunately did not receive a just trial. This is how I feel, and nothing can change it. In any case, I ask for a measure of justice and mercy, the essence of the presidential pardon, from His Excellency the President in this request."
Azaria also referred to claims he had never expressed remorse for his actions. "I've read and heard reactions to my decision to not express remorse for shooting the terrorist. That is not accurate: were I to know with certainty, during those tense second on the scene, that the terrorist was not boobytrapped, I would absolutely not have shot him. Therefore, and in hindsight alone, shooting the terrorist was an operational mistake," Azaria's letter to Rivlin said.
Netanyahu agreeing to sign the letter was not the prime minister's first show of public support for Azaria. After the soldier's appeal was denied, Netanyahu said, "My stance, as I expressed it after the verdict, has remained unchanged regarding pardoning Azaria. When the matter becomes practical, I will forward my recommendation to pardon to the relevant parties."
The prime minister also spoke with Azaria's parents on the phone before he was sentenced.
Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid commented on Netanyahu's signing of the letter, saying his signature constituted a "direct attack on the president of Israel, the chief of staff and the IDF."