Military prosecutors on Sunday refused to enter into a mediation process with the defense team in the Elor Azaria case as the two sides presented their closing arguments in the appeal.
Both sides have appealed the 18-month jail sentence that the Israeli soldier received after being convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground after attacking another soldier.
At the hearing at the military court at the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, Judge Zvi Segal urged the two sides to “rise above” the enmity heard in the course of the contentious trial. Taking the cue, Elor Azaria’s defense attorney Yoram Sheftel suggested a two-week mediation process, but military prosecutor Nadav Weisman refused, saying a ruling was necessary.
“[My] role is to request that you determine the findings of the fact. And even more important, to determine the norms and proper punishment,” the Haaretz daily quoted him as telling the judges. “We haven’t heard any regret” from Azaria.
“A year and a half are not adequate for the public interest in this case of manslaughter. There needs to be a verdict in our case, so that every person will know what happened in this case,” he added in reference to the 18-month sentence handed down to Azaria in February.
Following Weisman’s refusal, Segal instructed the prosecutor to take the suggestion for mediation to his commanding officer, the military advocate general Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek, and to give the court an answer within a week.
Also at Sunday’s hearing, Sheftel sought to cast doubt on a number of the witnesses who testified against Azaria, saying that they offered conflicting accounts of the incident last April, while also maintaining that his client acted properly.
Azaria’s military service ends on July 20, meaning that if a verdict is not reached by then, he will no longer be able to remain confined to a military base, according to Haaretz. In such a case, the judges would need to decide if Azaria would remain under arrest and if so under what conditions.
A Palestinian activist for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem filmed Azaria, 21, shooting dead Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, minutes after Sharif and another man carried out a stabbing attack on troops in the West Bank city of Hebron, and as Sharif lay on the ground disarmed and bleeding, having been shot during the attack. The incident occurred on March 24, 2016.
The footage made international headlines at the time, and the case opened deep fissures in Israeli society, with some on the left seeing it as a test case for the army’s commitment to law and order and those on the right seeing Azaria as a victim of his circumstances who should not be punished. Following the verdict, many right-wing politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for him to be pardoned.