One thing perplexed me a lot last week that so many Israeli people vented their scathing criticism to the President Reuven Rivlin over his decision on Sgt. Elor Azaria, because the President refused to pardon Azaria for his conviction, actually I totally agree with the president’s decision which embodies the conscientiousness and justice of a humane state. And I did a survey with dozens of Israelis randomly about their opinion on this, about 80% of the 30 individually surveyed people supported the decision of the president, it’s exactly the opposite of what social media says, I’m glad that more people supported the decision.
One of my surveyed people told me that the soldier should be pardoned because it was complicated situation, maybe the terrorist would detonate a bomb even he was injured. This assumption intrigued me to watch the scene video again, and I watched the video from different angles and sources several times again, I found that the terrorist was shot down and the situation was neutralized for over 10 minutes before Azaria deliberately waved the rifle and shot the terrorist in his head. And there were several soldiers around the terrorist, they should have known the status of the terrorist better than Azaria who was from farther distance, if the terrorist was still dangerous, the first soldier should shoot him would not be Azaria.
How can we believe that Azaria shot him out of threat? Firstly, he claimed that the terrorist was lying there dead, then he claimed that the terrorist was a threat because he had a knife, but actually the knife was far away from he can reach, lastly Azaria claimed the terrorist may have been carrying a suicide vest, this is also not true, finally his allegation was not adopted but deemed as “evolving and evasive”.
Apparently Sgt. Azaria lied about his testimony, and he has never expressed remorse or regret, he believed he was innocent and the military verdict was unfair, I think this is even worse than his act, it means he didn’t realize his act was wrong and didn’t respect the law and value of the country and the army, if Israeli army can kill enemy just out of hate not out of justice, it makes it not far from the extremist regimes or organizations. It’s crystal clear that he broke the army rule and Israeli law.
Sergeant Elor Azaria waiting for the verdict with laughing inside the military court in Tel Aviv. Photo: AP
The value of IDF is exactly what justifies IDF’s legitimacy to operate on the land of Israel, and it’s the source of the strength of IDF, if the value is impaired, its legitimacy will be jeopardized. I believe the reason why the President rejected the pardon is just that he believes the value of nation is more important than pandering to the opinion of the irreverent people.
As a president, he should have considered all respects of the case based on careful investigation and well-advised judgement, his decision embodies the courage and determination of a patriotic statesman, and it makes me prouder as a Zionist.
Unfortunately, I saw the Prime Minister and many ministers uphold the pardon of Sgt. Azaria, I’m sure they know it’s a disproportionate action to kill a disabled terrorist and it’s violating the value of IDF and Israel State, but they still chose to cover up the unconfessed soldier, I don’t know if they just want to cater to the public or out of other considerations. It seems most of the Israeli politicians are swayed easily by the public when they need to make tough decisions.
I think it’s a big mistake for the Israeli politicians to politicalize the military verdict and the decision of the President, they should remember that beyond left and right, there is a thing called justice which is neutrally good for the nation, it should be more important than their political appeals.
I heard opinions supporting the pardon, some claim it will make the Israeli army weaker because fewer people will join army and the soldier will not act quickly enough when the danger comes, I think it’s groundless, this will make IDF stronger, and the soldiers should be more confident to protect their country based on the right value, because only the army with justice and moral can be strong and deserve more widely support.
Some accused the President made his decision on purpose of good international PR for Israel, I think it’s also untenable, Israel and its president has many other approaches and ways to make good PR, he doesn’t need to sacrifice his citizen to gain good PR, and I believe Israeli government did the best in the world to protect its citizen’s safety and rights. Nevertheless, if the president agreed to pardon him, it would be another PR crisis for Israel, then the IDF and Israel would be fiercely condemned by international community. Israel does need good international image, but this should not be the main reason for the President to make such a decision.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was depicted as an Arabic figure as Rabin was on social media.
Someone claims the nation should “show leniency and mercy” and “put an end to the affair that shook Israeli society.”, If the soldier confessed and regret what he did was wrong, probably the president can alleviate his punishment, but the soldier didn’t even realize his act actually harmed the country.
I told the surveyed people that I totally agree with the President, and his decision made me even prouder as a Zionist. I’m not an Israeli, and I’m neither a leftist nor a rightest, and I do not always support the government, but I have been supporting whatever is really good for the nation, so I have to say this soldier should be punished for his wrong and impenitence.
The last but not least, Israel is a very democratic nation, anyone can say what they think and want, I respect it, but if the president is cursed as Nazi and son of b– by the citizens, this kind of democracy is deviating too far from it should be. Democracy is to protect people’s rights, but not to justify people’s personal attack on others especially on their legitimate head of the state.
If one day the Israeli president make the opposite decision in the same situation and most of the Israeli people believe they can break the law and value of Israel and Judaism at their will, I will be still a Zionist, but a rather disappointed and disgraceful one, definitely not a proud one.
Benjamin Peng, the founder of Israel Plan Organization, the NPO organization supporting and promoting Israel in China, and the Managing Director of Cukierman Yafo Capital. He is living in Israel currently, and finishing his Global MBA program in IDC Hertzliya.