Lieutenant-Colonel Shalom Eisner regretted an incident
in which he beat a foreign activist with an M-16 rifle on Sunday. "I should not have flung my weapon like that," he told his associates. "But those are 60 seconds out of a two-hour event," he noted.
He has been suspended from his post and IDF
chief of Staff Benny Gantz
said he regarded the incident with the utmost severity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
condemned the incident and said that "such conduct is not characteristic of IDF soldiers and commanders and has no place in the IDF and the State of Israel."
Central Command Chief Major-General Nitzan Alon ordered an immediate inquiry of the event. It has been decided that Eisner be suspended until the full investigation is completed. Meanwhile, the Military Advocate General has ordered an IMP (Investigating Military Police) investigation. IDF chief Gantz said: "This event does not reflect the IDF's values and will be thoroughly investigated and handled with the necessary severity."
Lt. Col. Eisner with bandaged hand after incident
Ynet has obtained Eisner's version of events as he told it to his associates. The deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Territorial Brigade said that after hearing of the activists' intention of blocking Route 90 he showed up at the scene and ordered the forces to prevent the blocking of the road.
"I explained to the activists that many travelers were using the road because of the holiday and that they are posing a major security risk," he said. Eisner noted he had done the same thing when groups of right-wing activists had tried to access the road for protests.
Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner beats foreign activist with M-16
He said he allowed the activists to demonstrate inside the village of Ouja and ride off the road. "All was calm and in control and that is why I didn't bring a water canon and gave them 15 minutes to protest," he said.
"It was a group of 60 activists and suddenly two buses arrived and the activists all together called to block the road while closing our barrier. One of the Palestinian organizers told me at this stage that she no longer had control over the event."
'One punch too many'
Lt. Col. Eisner claims that some of the protesters started attacking him with sticks which caused one of his fingers to break. He also suffered a major injury in his wrist which required a cast. "The weapon was the only thing I had in my hands. The whole thing lasted 60 seconds, we prevented them from getting on the road and they boarded the bus. Obviously, they didn't show the part where they attacked us with sticks in the video."
Eisner's jeep contained a crowd dispersal kit which was not used during the event. "There was no reason for me to fire a gas grenade as there had been no violence in the course of two hours of dialogue. I thought about using the kit, but I decided it would be better to let them calm down."
Lt. Col. Eisner beating one of the activists
Lt. Col. Eisner's associates say that the highly esteemed officer had demonstrated restraint in previous incidents. In one instance, he helped deliver the baby of a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint and in another chased after Jewish drivers who had ran over a Palestinian girl and left her on the road. "I may have given one punch too many but I'm against violence as a concept. Sadly, the media reports are all that will be remembered," he said.
"I could have stopped them but I didn't because I wanted a peaceful solution to the event. It's obvious the video had been edited and that it caused damage to the State of Israel. We should have had our own documenting crew," Eisner remarked.
"What they were trying to do risked my life and the lives of many others. We maintained restraint for two hours. Some of the soldiers told me, 'Stop it, they're inciting.' I should have been better prepared. They caught us off guard. I used whatever I had in my hands."
Some of Eisner's former subordinates said he showed restraint during riots and always opts for the path of negotiations. "The video is tendentious and edited," they said.