Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, who on Saturday was filmed striking Danish pro-Palestinian activist Andreas Ayas in the face with his rifle, has been removed from his post as deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade and will be prohibited from holding a command position for two years.
Eisner told colleagues, “I did not expect this to be the decision. I thought they accepted my version of events and understood it. They showed me the door out. I need to digest the decision and then plan my future.”
The decision to remove Eisner was taken by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz after consulting with senior IDF staff. A press release Wednesday announced that Eisner’s removal was “on moral grounds” and that there were “professional and command failures.”
Eisner had been slated to take over as deputy commander of the IDF Officer School later this year.
Eisner said on Tuesday that he made an error in professional judgement, but rejected the suggestion that his actions amounted to a moral failure. He also criticized the IDF chief of General Staff, the head of the Central Command, and his division commander for their response to the incident and its backlash.
The initial findings of a Military Police investigation indicate that the soldiers Eisner was commanding at the scene of the incident were not adequately prepared for the episode. Eisner decided not to use crowd control measures, even though they were at his disposal. The Border Police contingent that was summoned to assist Eisner and his men did not arrive because it was dealing with another incident. One of Eisner’s soldiers was supposed to record the incident, but the battery in his camera died before the flare-up began.
Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman defended Eisner in an open letter to Gantz on Wednesday, asserting that relieving Eisner from his command without also acting to prevent future conflicts is a one-sided action because the military does not “have the courage to deal with the two simultaneously.”
During the course of the investigation, Eisner repeated his claim that he was attacked and wounded by one of the protesters. He said he had been hit from behind and had two fingers broken, and he “thought” Ayas had been his attacker, but admitted that his response was wrong.
Ayas, who required stitches for a split lip, said that the suggestion that he had broken the officer’s fingers was “a direct lie.” Activists said Eisner also hit another protester and two Palestinians.