An IDF military court decided to go with a modified plea bargain agreement for Lt. Colonel Shalom Eisner, who had been set to be kicked out of the army.
Eisner had hit a foreign anarchist in the face, who was trying to block Highway 90 in the Jordan Valley. During the 2 hour altercation that preceded Eisner’s actions, one of the activists broke the fingers in Eisner’s hand.
The activists had filmed the April 2012 incident and disseminated a selectively edited video showing Eisner striking uncooperative anarchists with his rifle – something a lot of soldiers probably wish they could do to these foreign provocateurs.
What the film did not show was that before Eisner hit the foreign leftists, other anarchists had broken two of the officer’s fingers, and the scenes of the anarchists using their bicycles to hit and push the soldiers were also mostly cut out.
The court ordered Eisner to serve two months of public service, after which he can remain in his position for a year, instead of being dismissed right away which is what the original plea bargain had stipulated. Eisner was supposed to head up the prestigious Bahad 1 officer’s school in the Negev.
High ranking army officers, as well as the mother of a fallen soldier who was brought to burial by Eisner, praised Eisner for his sensitivity and character.
Hagit Rein, whose son was killed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and was brought to burial by Eisner, burst out into tears as she told the military court of Eisner’s sensitivity and involvement with the burial of her son.
At the time, no one was able to retrieve her son’s body which was trapped in the middle of a combat zone in Lebanon. Eisner upon hearing about it, jumped into a jeep, drove out, and brought the soldier’s body back to Israel.
Senior IDF officer Yehkezkiel Agai testified, “Shalom and I served together in the tank unit, I brought him into his current position as deputy commander because he is trustworthy and dedicated to his job. He is like a man who never received a traffic ticket for 40 years and then is suddenly involved in a serious accident.
“There is no question about the qualities of Shalom. There is no problem with his values or behavior. He just make a mistake.”
Sami Turgeman, head of the Southern Command, told the military judges, “As a commander of ground forces, I often have to face officers in positions that they do not like. Eisner willingly took the position as the Jordan Valley division deputy commander which is not convenient from a personal standpoint and for family life. I have no doubt that he is a highly motivated officer.”
However, Nitzan Alon head of Central Command and a long-time thorn in the side of national religious officers such as Eisner, told the court that despite Eisner’s excellent qualities, “I saw professional failures in maintaining control.”
The incident began when 250 anarchists rode their bicycles onto Highway 90, the only highway connecting the southern and northern ends of the Jordan Valley, with the stated aim of blocking the road in an illegal protest.
The division commander was on vacation at the time and left instructions for Eisner to call the police if there was any trouble.
Eisner had instead decided to deal with the protesters himself.
Anarchists struggled with the soldiers, and some of them were also “bumping” their bicycles into the IDF soldiers as a “non-violent” provocation. With two broken fingers, Eisner’s patience ran out when one of the protesters purposely stood in his way as he and his soldiers were trying to clear the demonstrators off the highway.
After the video of the confrontation went viral, Eisner was removed from duty until an investigation was completed.
In September, Eisner reached the plea bargain agreement, reported here.
On the surface, Eisner came out better than expected, because he can return to his present position after two months of public service, and will retire from the army in another year instead of being forced out right away.
Unfortunately the mistake here is that he is being forced to retire at all.