Dozens of reserve officers and soldiers who served with Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, who struck an anarchist provocateur in the face Saturday, on Monday sent a letter in support of Eisner to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the Head of Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
“We, the officers and soldiers of the reserve battalion, served under Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner between the years 2008 and 2011,” says the letter. “During these years we carried out together different operations and training. In light of the media reports of the incident in the Jordan Valley on Saturday, April 14, 2012, we wish to express our support and appreciation for him as a person, as a friend and a commander with values and morals.
“Lt. Col. Eisner is a veteran commander who has held various commanding positions for two decades,” the letter continues. “In all his roles Eisner was careful to be out there before his troops - [that is, lead them rather than remain in command quarters, an IDF tradition, ed.] (as he did in this incident as well) and adhere to the mission at hand, while ensuring the values of the IDF. More than once Lt. Col. Eisner volunteered to lead a mission, even when not called to duty. One such example was during the Second Lebanon War.
“As a person, Lt. Col. Eisner dealt sensitively and cared for the welfare of his soldiers. As active reservists we are convinced that his many merits will stand up for him when you come to discuss any measures to be taken against him,” the reservists conclude.
The IDF decided to suspend Eisner on Sunday night, several hours after anarchists uploaded a video to the Internet in which Eisner is seen hitting an ISM anarchist in the face with his gun magazine. As is usual in such cases, the anarchists' video is edited and does not include any documentation of their provocations vis-à-vis the reservist force that had to deal with them on the Jewish Sabbath, including breaking Eisner's fingers. There was no evidence in the video that the anarchist was injured.
The incident occurred near Route 90, which runs along Israel's eastern border. The anarchists were obviously ignoring the orders of the IDF force to clear the road.
The anarchists claimed that they were trying to conduct a peaceful protest by riding their bicycles on Route 90. IDF forces "brutally attacked" them, they claimed, and three activists were hospitalized after the event.
On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu joined the chorus denouncing Eisner and said, “This kind of behavior is not typical of the IDF's soldiers and commanders, and has no place in the IDF and the state of Israel.”
On the other hand, MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) was dismayed by the Prime Minister's statement and by the IDF's prompt decision to suspend Eisner. He said, “We have gotten used to the fact that the media, which identifies with the radical left and anarchists, defends those who abuse our sons, the soldiers and officers, and routinely harass the 350,000 settlers of Judea and Samaria.
“We did not think for a moment that the Israeli media would have anything positive to say about [the officer].
“But it is very sad that on the eve of the Day of Remembrance and Independence Day, the Prime Minister and Chief of Staff decided to immediately side with the people who they know hate them as well – the tree choppers, the rock throwers, the road blockers and those who love them.”