On Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the Israel Defense Forces officer who was filmed over the weekend hitting a Danish protester with his rifle butt in the Jordan Valley.
In a statement released by his office on Tuesday night, Barak responded to the incident for the first time . "The defense minister has determined, in closed conversations, that there is no contradiction between carrying out operations, appropriate behavior and preserving the principles and spirit of the IDF," said the statement.
The statement went on to criticize any justifications for IDF Lt. Col. Shaul Eisner's behavior made over the past day. "Barak said tonight that the baseless statements made over the past 24 hours that the severe and out of the ordinary behavior conducted by the senior officer emerged from an operational necessity or out of a principle of sticking to an operation, are not accepted by the defense minister and were never acceptable by the IDF," said the statement.
The defense minister's statement followed a personal response by the IDF officer, earlier on Tuesday, to allegations made against him.
Eisner, who was suspended from duties following the incident, told Channel 10 that "it could have been a professional mistake to use a weapon in front of the cameras." The televised report also showed a document indicating he had broken his finger.
Video footage posted on YouTube showed Eisner, deputy commander of the IDF's Jordan Valley brigade, striking Danish activist Andreas Ias in the face with an M-16 rifle during a cycle rally near Jericho in the West Bank.
"It was a two minute confrontation," he said," so yes, it's true that some pictures look bad, but I used a weapon… in a cold manner, as a stick. I didn't kill anyone and I did not put anyone's life in danger." He added that he believes that thanks to his actions the protesters called off the demonstration.
Ias, the Danish activist that was hit in the face, said on Monday that the officer's claim that the activists were violent is a fabrication. Also on Monday, the Danish ambassador asked Israel to explain the officer's assault on Ias.
"These stories do not interest the Chief of Staff or my Front Commander," Eisner added on Tuesday. He admitted there are "a few questions," yet maintained that he "does not accept this as a moral failure in any way." "We know the history of these anarchists," he said, "they came with sticks and broke my hand – but no one will tell or film that."
"There is a question here of what is more important – to carry out the mission or to look good (in pictures). I claim the mission is important enough," Eisner said. He added: "What if they would film IDF soldiers backing down from an angry crowd? That sounds good? What, I'd let them block roads? I'd let them endanger lives?"
President Shimon Peres on Monday said he was "shocked" by the incident, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the incident, which was seen in a film posted on YouTube earlier Sunday.
"Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.
On Tuesday, a few dozen demonstrators headed by National Union MK Michael Ben Ari gathered in front of the Kirya Defense Ministry complex to show support for Eisner. They called on the IDF to award him a medal for his conduct.
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