Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he supports pardoning Elor Azaria, the soldier convicted earlier in the day of shooting dead a prone Palestinian assailant in Hebron last year. “I support a pardon for Elor Azaria,” the prime minister said in a short statement. “This is a difficult and painful day for all of us – and first and formost for Elor and his family, for IDF soldiers, for many soldiers and for the parents of our soldiers, and me among them.” In an interview with Channel 2 shortly after Netanyahu issued his statement, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman termed calls for Azaria’s pardoning “ignorance and slogans.”
Chemi Shalev writes, “The court rejected the notion that the security situation and the war on terror justified chucking out rules of engagement and the so-called “purity of arms” of the IDF. It resisted efforts to define Palestinian lives, including those of terrorists, as essentially worthless. It placed a major roadblock to slow the advance of the ongoing campaign to do away with IDF values and standards on the way to a ruthless and rule-less Jewish regime in the West Bank. But the right-wing enemies of the rule of law won’t rest. They never do. In the short run, they will fight to overturn the conviction of Azaria by appeals for pardons and clemencies. They will continue to portray the judges and the IDF commanders as agents of Israel’s enemies. They will relentlessly chip away at the Israeli legal system, continue their efforts to pack the courts and limit their independence, go on with their campaign to deprive the High Court of Justice of its constitutional powers of review over Knesset legislation, continue exerting public pressure on the judges so that next time they will think twice before standing up for what is right, as Azaria’s judges did.”
Peter Beinart observes, “Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued two public statements. When the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution criticizing settlements, Netanyahu attacked it for not condemning Syria. When Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Obama administration’s decision to let the resolution pass, Netanyahu attacked him for not sufficiently condemning the Palestinians. In both responses, the Israeli leader illustrated George Orwell’s famous insight: The abuse of human beings starts with the abuse of language.”
Wasting no time after the new U.S. Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, three Republican senators immediately introduced a bill to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) submitted the “Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act” to fulfill the promises to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital. The bill would withhold certain funds from the State Department until the move is completed.
Facing calls to pardon an IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin’s office clarified that defendants, rather than politicians, must apply for clemency, saying he will consider all requests “in accordance with standard practices.”
Emad Abu-Shamsiyah, the resident of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron who filmed the shooting by Sgt. Elor Azaria of a Palestinian who stabbed an Israeli soldier in Hebron, said he has continued to receive threats, mostly through Facebook. Abu-Shamsiya told Haaretz on Wednesday that he has received threats in recent days from various Israelis and he wants protection for his family.
Clashes broke out in the Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon after Jerusalem municipality crews and inspectors stormed the camp under heavy armed protection. Thaer al-Fasfous, spokesman for the Fatah movement in the camp, told Ma’an that dozens of armed Israeli police officers escorted Jerusalem municipality crews into the camp who began breaking into shops for “inspection.”
Rivlin says Israelis should shun contact with Europe’s far-right, Times of Israel
Indirectly rejecting overtures by Austria’s right-wing party toward Israel, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has told Jewish officials that he strongly opposes contact between European parties with a history of anti-Semitism and his country’s officials.
“New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s North Shore office in Auckland was vandalized with pro-Jewish graffiti, believed to be in response to New Zealand’s co-sponsoring of an anti-settlement resolution at the United Nations. In recent years incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism have been common in New Zealand. On Wednesday, however, the trend of anti-Semitic graffiti was reversed, when the outside wall of McCully’s office was spray painted with the words ‘traitor Jew hater McCully.’”
Barak Ravid observes, “Netanyahu’s statement was a model of Orwellian doublespeak. A visitor from another planet who landed in Israel at 8 P.M. on Wednesday and read this statement would have thought the soldier who opened fire was actually the victim of the whole affair, and especially of the trial. A genuine tortured martyr. In this statement, Netanyahu identified himself completely with the criminal and his supporters and, for dessert, urged that the gun-wielding soldier be pardoned before he had even been sentenced….When you read Netanyahu’s statement, there’s no choice but to conclude that the prime minister has thrown the chief of staff, the military justice system, army orders and the IDF’s values under the bus. For fear of the internet commenters, the polls and the seats that are fleeing from his Likud party to Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi, Netanyahu bolstered the false narrative that Azaria’s supporters, public relations agents and attorneys have been disseminating for 10 months now – that the IDF chain of command threw ‘everyone’s son’ to the dogs.”
Ben Caspit writes, “As soon as gossip and rumors morphed into a real investigation, the entire political establishment went into a tizzy. Almost every senior member in Israeli politics wants Netanyahu to get off the political horse. His takeover of government institutions is blocking the paths of many good people to the highest echelons of politics. If Netanyahu quits, it is expected that former Ministers Gideon Saar and Moshe Ya’alon will return to the Likud. Perhaps serving Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu will do the same. Even such high-ranking Likud members as Ministers Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan won’t shed too many tears for the current prime minister, and they are in addition to the heads and senior members of all the other factions. Netanyahu has now declared war against the police, the state attorney, parts of the independent media and senior members of the political establishment. He is convinced that he will win, but everyone else is not so sure.”
Benjy Cannon writes, “Despite ample data to the contrary, the myth that American Jews and Israelis opposed the Iran agreement continues to find currency in some circles. Most American Jews supported the Iran agreement and voted to that effect in 2016. As we head into a period where the Iran agreement may find itself challenged by opponents in Congress and the administration, the media should take care to accurately represent the Jewish and pro-Israel community’s support for the JCPOA.”
Yossi Verter argues, “Azaria’s trial has shown, for all to see, the ugly face of much of Israeli politics. Parties and individual politicians who aim for the lowest common denominator in Israeli public life. Politicians who say a terrorist is meant to be killed, even if he has already been incapacitated. He should be shot the way you shoot a wild and dying dog, though not out of mercy, but for vengeance and deterrence.”
Lily Herman writes, “Despite the Republican senators saying that the move is pro-Israel and for the Jewish people, it has serious international consequences. While most Israelis don’t prioritize the move, many Arab nations will see the relocation as an insult to years of diplomacy and other agreements. ‘It wouldn’t really produce very much substantive or concrete gain for Israel and it would complicate our relationship with the Arab world, but more importantly, it would also complicate Israel’s relationship with the Arab world,’ said James Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, according to CBS News. ‘Israel needs, and is indeed working with, the Arab world in lots of ways that are quiet, but important, and opening this would risk disturbing that.’”
The EU giveth, Israel taketh away in West Bank, Al-Monitor
Ahmad Melhem reports, “Palestinians are calling for the European Union to put its muscle where its money is by increasing pressure on Israel to stop destroying EU-funded facilities. Israel is preparing legislation to forbid EU states from aiding Palestinian building projects in the West Bank’s Area C.”
Better a good plan today than a perfect one tomorrow, Boston Globe
In a letter to the editor, Michael Felsen writes, “Until an approach is found that’s more likely to lead to the realization — albeit necessarily imperfect — of the aspirations of the Palestinians and Israelis alike, the Kerry principles offer the best framework for moving forward. They deserve credit, and intensive implementation efforts, not disparagement.”
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