Several prominent national-religious rabbis have expressed support for Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, the officer who was filmed striking a pro-Palestinian activist in the face with his M- 16 rifle.

Eisner, who has expressed regret over the incident, has been suspended until an investigation into the matter is completed.

Rabbi Benny Lau, a widely respected figure in the national- religious community, said that although it was clear that Eisner “failed in those moments” in which he struck the activist, the lieutenant-colonel was a moderate figure with positive values and that he should be cautioned but in no circumstances dismissed.

Referring to Eisner’s regret over the incident, Lau wrote on his Facebook page “Lt.-Col. Eisner’s remorse allows him to go back and deal with the complex situation [in the West Bank] and lead himself and his subordinates to the fitting moral level of the Israeli army.”

Lau also criticized both sides of the political debate: The right wing for refusing to criticize Eisner’s violent actions and the left wing for refusing to take into consideration the officer’s confrontation of violent right-wing activists, and his achievements in slowing the “price tag” attack phenomenon.

Elyakim Levanon, hard-line rabbi of the Samaria region, was even more vehement in his support for Eisner.

“If we were talking about a settler who had raised his hands to a lieutenant-colonel, everyone would have asked ‘why didn’t he shoot him in the knees?’ But here, instead of praising this officer, who was beaten, they condemn him; there’s no greater distortion,” Levanon told Walla News website.

The rabbi also criticized Eisner’s indefinite suspension, citing the officer’s claims that the same activist had struck him with a stick shortly before the scenes depicted in the video, breaking two of his fingers and injuring his wrist.

Former IDF chief rabbi Avihai Rontzki has also weighed in on the incident, and slammed what he labeled “an instinctive and impulsive” reaction against an officer who has “given his life everyday for the sake of the Jewish nation.”

“Correct, it doesn’t look good and the officer himself acknowledges that he made a mistake,” said Rontzki, “but they edited the video so that you couldn’t see that he was attacked and that they broke his hand. They need to look at the big picture.”

Rontzki, like Lau, said that Eisner should be reprimanded but that he should be allowed to continue to serve in the army, and also said that the incident should have been investigated before suspending him.

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