Israeli General Tried to Set Up Sentencing Deal for Hebron Shooter, Lawyers Say

The army, however, denies that any leniency deal was in the works after Sgt. Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter for killing a Palestinian assailant.

Charlie Azaria, left, and his son Elor Azaria at the military court in Jaffa, October 2016.
Moti Milrod

The lawyers for Sgt. Elor Azaria, the soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing a wounded Palestinian assailant, say the commander of Azaria’s Kfir Brigade offered to set up a meeting in an effort to reach a sentencing deal.

The effort was allegedly designed to ward off an appeal in the case. In a letter, the lawyers told Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that the offer had been made to Azaria’s father.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Office, however, denies that any deal on lenient sentencing had been broached.

Azaria’s lawyers wrote that Brig. Gen. Guy Hazut offered to have Charlie Azaria meet with the IDF’s personnel chief, Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, and the head of Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa.

Almoz and Numa, however, do not play a role in sentencing. The military prosecution has already put out feelers about a possible sentencing agreement following Azaria’s conviction this month for killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif last March in Hebron.

One condition demanded by the prosecution was that the conviction not be appealed. On Saturday, however, Azaria’s lawyers Eyal Besserglick, Ilan Katz and Karmit Shahiber said they were looking to appeal.

Azaria’s lawyers also say that in Hazut’s conversation with Charlie Azaria, Hazut criticized the line of defense in the soldier’s trial. Hazut reportedly accused the lawyers of not putting the soldier’s interests first, saying “the lawyers have other interests, like their careers.”

On Tuesday, Channel 2 reported that Hazut told Charlie Azaria that the IDF would take it into account if the family “lowered their profile.” The IDF Spokesman’s Office confirmed that the two met but said the meeting was only  to ascertain if the Azaria family needed assistance.

The spokesman’s office confirmed that Hazut suggested that the family temper its criticism of the army, but said he did not attempt to intervene in the legal aspects.

Many Israeli politicians believe Azaria should be pardoned, taking into consideration the dangers Israeli soldiers face in the field, but the military judges said Azaria’s statement that Sharif “deserves to die” was telling.

Sharif had stabbed a soldier, then was shot by other soldiers. As he lay on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head.