Soldiers Back Commander in 'Activist Assault'
More than 80 IDF soldiers and reservists signed a petition of support for a military commander who was filmed in a physical altercation with a Danish anti-Israel activist.
Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner was suspended after the video emerged showing him striking Andreas Ias in the face with an M16 rifle as he tried to end a tense demonstration.
The incident happened on Saturday when a group of foreign and Arab cyclists sought to block a main road near Jericho to protest Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria.
Critics of Eisner's suspension were quick to note the video of the incident uploaded to the internet was clearly edited in such a way as to cast Eisner in the worst possible light.
The altercation came at the end of nearly two hours of heated confrontation between protesters and soldiers, and the video began with Eisner striking Ias.
Eisner subsequently told military investigators that two of his fingers had been broken in an attack by the Danish campaigner before he retaliated with his weapon.
Nonetheless, Israel's power elite were quick to condemn Eisner even before the investigation into the incident was completed.
"Such behavior has no place in the Israeli defense forces or in the state of Israel," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said.
President Shimon Peres has expressed his "shock" at the incident.
Danish authorities, however, were more circumspect saying only that they wanted "clarification" as to what occurred.
In their letter to IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, 83 soldiers, officers and reservists who have served under Eisner said that he was a "moral and ethical" commander.
They called for his years of military service, upholding Israel's "values", to be taken into account.
The IDF has removed Eisner from his position as deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Territorial brigade while the investigation continues.