JERUSALEM – One of Israel’s most controversial court cases ended on Tuesday with an 18-month sentence for an army medic.
The Israeli right is livid that soldier Elor Azaria will serve time for killing a Palestinian man who had carried out a terrorist attack. Its leaders say that even if he went against army rules, Azaria shouldn’t go to prison.
“Now the time has come for clemency,” insisted Likud politician Israel Katz. “Bring Elor back home.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett has claimed that imprisoning Azaria will inhibit soldiers from acting against terrorists and if the sentence isn’t cancelled before he is due behind bars next month, we “will all pay the price”.
One prominent musician, Ariel Zilber, even released a fast-paced song dedicated to Azaria ahead of the sentencing, urging him to stay strong and lauding him as “brave”.
On the opposite side of the bitter debate, people say that Azaria deserved to go to prison because he killed Abdel Fattah al-Sharif without justification and Israel must maintain respect for rules in the army by punishing wrongdoing. They share the view of the judge, Maya Heller, who said that Azaria damaged the “purity of arms” and acted as “judge and executioner”.
There have been some claims that the sentence, shorter than the prosecution wanted, wasn’t harsh enough.
Hassan Jabareen, director-general of the Arab-Israeli lobby group Adalah, claimed that the “light” sentence was “an expression of disregard for the value of Palestinian life and fails to serve as a deterrent”.