The case against the brigade commander who apparently condoned the use of violence against Palestinians was closed over the weekend, as the controversy surrounding the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma rages.
Military Advocate General Brigadier-General Avihai Mandelblit submitted his opinion regarding the investigation against former Kfir Brigade Commander Itai Virob, saying Virob's words in the military court, when he apparently condoned the beating of Palestinians, do not reflect his usual behavior or the message he conveyed to his subordinates.
IDF officers breathed a sigh of relief regarding the conclusion of the case. "If this story had ended with a trial, it would have been a slap in the face of commanders in the field," they said. "It's good it has ended thus."
The affair, which raised a storm in the IDF, began in 2009 when Virob gave evidence during the trial of Lieutenant Adam Malul, then deputy commander of the Shimshon Brigade, who was accused of abusing a Palestinian during operations.
Virob defended Malul, saying there were circumstances in which used of force was justified. As a result, investigations were begun which also delayed his military promotion. During the investigations, testimonies were collected from his soldiers, who were asked if his words in court reflected his attitudes on the ground.
'Made his soldiers understand norms'
All the testimonies claimed unequivocally that Virob never condoned violence, which apparently persuaded the military advocate general too. From the court testimonies, Mandelblit wrote, it appears that Virob "did not intend to permit violence for the sake of violence, but referred to cases in which violence was necessary for the mission" and operational circumstances.
From the investigation material, it appears that during his term as Kfir commander Virob did not convey messages condoning illegal acts by his soldiers during fighting in general and against civilian populations specifically, Mandelblit continued. On the contrary, Virob acted to instill army protocols and carried out educational activities intended to prevent illegal acts.
Mandelblit noted that even before the affair began, Virob "was tireless in his efforts and took every opportunity to make his soldiers understand the norms" which should govern their behavior.
Virob's attorney expressed his satisfaction that the case has been closed. "For a year and a half Virob and I have done all we can to persuade the State that his words were misunderstood, and that in fact we're talking about a most moral officer who emphasized humane and moral behavior towards the Palestinian population," he said, adding he was happy Virob could now return to his outstanding military service.
Virob, who last year admitted he had been hurt by the affair, is today the commander of reserve paratroopers. The closing of the case should put him back on the list of officers slated for promotion.
Officers who know him personally said to Ynet the investigation was unnecessary. "Virob was already hurt, and the investigation was the worst of it," one officer said. "He should have had a senior role a long time ago. This is a valued officer in every way, and the IDF must not reject such officers – it must promote them."
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