Binyamin Netanyahu meets soldier Damas Pakada
Binyamin Netanyahu meets soldier Damas PakadaScreenshot

Israel's justice ministry announced Sunday it was closing the criminal investigation of the police officer whose documented beating of a soldier of Ethiopian origin set off a series of protests.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to accept the recommendation of internal affairs to discontinue the proceedings against the officer, transferring the case to police for a "disciplinary examination" of his conduct, the ministry said.  

A video emerged late April showing an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin on his bike approaching two police who were blocking a road.    

After a short verbal exchange between the two, one of the officers is seen hitting the soldier, later identified as Damas Pakada, who fought back and was eventually subdued and handcuffed.

The footage set off a series of demonstrations across the country, including one in Tel Aviv during which police used riot control means and detained dozens of protesters, some of whom threw stones and bottles.

The incident also pushed Israel's leadership to pledge action to fix the "mistakes" made in the absorption of the country's 135,000-strong Ethiopian Jewish community, some of whom say they suffer racism and discrimination.

The Ethiopian community in Israel responded with rage to the decision, pledging to rekindle the demonstrations that died out last month.

Weinstein's decision was "scandalous" and a "disgrace," said former lawmaker Pnina-Tamano Shata, who participated in the protests.

"We have no choice but to continue the struggle for our rights," the former Yesh Atid MK wrote on her Facebook page.

Weinstein explained that a thorough examination of the video materials proved Pakada was the first to act violently when he pushed the officer barring his passageway.

"The officer used force to distance the soldier from the spot," the statement said, noting the chain of mutual violence which led to the eventual arrest of Pakada by the officer and another policeman at the site, which was "conducted flawlessly."  

Weinstein added he was also closing the investigation against Pakada for attacking the officer.  

The officer had been fired from the police shortly after the incident.