The bicycle-riding European pro-Palestinians who faced off with the Israel Defense Forces in the Jordan Valley near Jericho this weekend didn't look like avid Tour de France fans. It wasn't the bicycles that brought them to the Middle East, it was their desire to harass the IDF and encumber its routine activities in the region.
There is no clear answer yet as to whether or not the activists' activities are permissible. Since Israel demands that the Palestinians refrain from violence and terror, it must give them and their supporters, even if they are foreigners, some leeway to express their views by yelling out slogans and waving flags. On the Saturday of the incident in question (Eisner’s assault on a Danish activist), there were apparently two hours of scuffles of some sort. How else would Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner break two of his fingers?
The IDF officer fell into the trap set by the activists' provocation. Perhaps it was exhaustion and ongoing stress that finally broke him down. Now, when his future in the military is being decided, perhaps he can present these as mitigating factors in the forces that brought him to the point where he smashed the young, annoying Dane Andreas Ias in the face with the butt of his rifle.
However, the fact that the video showing Eisner hitting Ias -- as edited, upgraded and censored as it may be -- indicates that the soldier’s life was not in any danger. He was under no threat. It was not the kind of clash where a commander could have possibly lost control of the situation. He should not have lost control of his actions. And thus, millions of people in Israel and around the world witnessed a senior officer displaying entirely inappropriate behavior, prompting Danish Ambassador Liselotte Plesner to demand an explanation from Israel for the attack of a national.
There is no other choice: Eisner must be removed from the IDF. Be the results of the current investigation what they may, the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley brigade cannot continue to command, or remain on the promotion track. Eisner is not fit to command soldiers in situations where confrontations may erupt. He cannot teach young soldiers and he cannot serve as a role model.
If mercy should trump the obvious conclusion, and Eisner is permitted to remain in service, he will have to be reined in. He will have to be suspended for a long cooling-off period, no less than five or six years. Perhaps, when restored to the ranks, he will be stationed at a desk, far from soldiers and combat operations, where he would likely be very unhappy.
It is best not to judge him. Not to humiliate him. Not to tarnish his name. He simply failed, and a painful, mutually amicable split seems like the only appropriate solution.