IDF chief dismisses officer who hit Danish activist with rifle
Lt. Col. Shaul Eisner, who was filmed beating a protester with his rifle butt, will be barred from command positions for next two years; Eisner says he regrets hitting activist 'in front of cameras.'
IDF Lt. Col. Shaul Eisner, who was filmed over the weekend hitting a Danish protester with his rifle butt in the Jordan Valley, was dismissed from his position on Wednesday.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz decided to dismiss Eisner, after the recommendations of GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon and Sami Turgeman, commander of the Israel Defense Forces' ground forces, on the grounds that the attack was a "moral failure."
Gantz said that an investigation into the incident revealed operational failures in the preparation of IDF soldiers for the protest bike ride in which the activist took part as well as in the soldiers' handling of the confrontation that erupted.
Eisner, who was due to receive the rank of colonel, will be transferred to a senior staff position and will be barred from carrying out any command position in the IDF in the next two years. Starting 2014, Einser will be able to return to a command position, should he fulfill the necessary requirements.
After his dismissal, Eisner told his associates that all he wants is several days of quiet. "I just want to rest from this entire affair," Eisner said.
"What is important for him is that the affair is over. It is the IDF chief's decision, and now there is a decision," one of Eisner's associates told Haaretz.
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.
Eisner commented on the allegations against him on Tuesday, and said he regrets beating the activist in front of the cameras. "It could have been a professional mistake to use a weapon in front of the cameras," he told Channel 10.
"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.