Major-General Mandelblit
Major-General Mandelblit Israel news photo: IDF

Colonel Itai Virob, the former commander of the Kfir Brigade, is to face investigation for saying that the use of force is occasionally justified when dealing with suspected terrorist detainees who become aggressive during questioning. Chief Military Advocate Major-General Avichai Mandelblit ordered military police to begin a probe of Virob on Sunday.

Virob stated that measures against such detainees who resist, such as a slap or a chokehold, can be used in order to calm the situation and avoid more serious violence, as well as to get information that could prevent immediate danger from other members of the suspect's terrorist group. His statements were made during his testimony on behalf of Lieutenant Adam Maloul, a Kfir Brigade officer who was arrested and put on trial for allegedly slapping a Palestinian Authority Arab who refused to cooperate when questioned regarding the whereabouts of nearby terrorists.

Virob faced harsh criticism for his testimony, and even received an official reprimand. Maloul's attorneys then complained that by reprimanding Virob during the trial, IDF higher-ups had denied Maloul his right to a fair trial, as their actions would deter other officers from testifying on his behalf.

Senior IDF staff decided to push off the probe targeting Virob until Maloul's trial was over.

The probe will also target Lieutenant Colonel Shimon Haroush, former commander of the Shimshon regiment, who made similar remarks. Haroush stated that he personally had sometimes used force while questioning PA Arabs during an operation, so as to get information quickly and prevent terrorist actions that could be continuing.

Nachi Eyal of the Land of Israel Legal Forum strongly criticized Mandelblit's call for a probe. “This decision deals a mortal blow to the IDF's ability to protect the country. It ties the IDF's hands during the war on terrorism, and helps the terrorists.”

Eyal suggested that Mandelblit's decision was a result of pressure brought to bear oin him by the radical left-wing organizations Yesh Din and Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The groups have filed a petition with the High Court against Mandelblit, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and former Central Command head Gadi Shamni, demanding that Virob and Haroush be suspended and face a criminal investigation.

"Yesh Din is funded by the New Israel Fund, it works on behalf of Israel's enemies. The Military Advocate must not cooperate with this group,” Eyal said.

Mandelblit has also come under pressure from the nationalist camp, which mounted a synagogue campaign against him.