AG Orders Barak to Halt Probe Into IDF Conduct in Galant Case

Weinstein intervenes on Sunday after the Defense Minister tries to grant himself the ability to unilaterally extend the tenure of IDF Chief of Staff.

Every time the Galant document affair appears to finally be coming to an end, another development allows the saga to drag on. Last night this took the form of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordering Defense Minister Ehud Barak to put a hold on the internal committee of inquiry he had appointed to investigate the conduct of the top army brass involved in the case.

This is the second blow Barak has suffered at the hands of Weinstein in the past 24 hours. Sunday, the attorney general stepped in after Barak tried to define the tenure of chief of staff designate Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as "3 +1" - meaning a three-year term that can be extended by another year, depending on the good will of the defense minister, irrespective of who holds that position in February 2014.

After Weinstein intervened, the cabinet determined that the tenure for this position will be limited to three years and with a possibility to extend only under special circumstances - in other words, if the government deems it necessary, not on the recommendation of the defense minister.

Barak is now forced to accept the attorney general's position to put a hold on the committee headed by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yitzhak Brik, the establishment of which drew criticism on two issues: The fact that Brik, as IDF ombudsman, is subordinate to Barak, and was appointed to this position by the defense minister; and the composition of the committee, some of whom have been rivals of current Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi since their days in active service.

Weinstein makes another argument as well. He still needs to decide what to do with the findings of the police investigation into the Galant document affair. "It is possible that there will be more to investigate," the attorney general wrote, warning that inviting witnesses to the Brik committee may undermine the continuation of the police investigation.

Barak, for his part, has a lot of concerns about those close to the chief of staff over the affair. Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz, who is part of Ashkenazi's outer circle, is the main suspect in the document's forging. Col. Erez Weiner, Ashkenazi's aide, admitted to removing the paper from the bureau, which led to it being leaked to Channel 2. However you look at this, the IDF chief is at the center of this story. But Barak went too far, too fast.

The defense minister, convinced he is above all suspicions, appointed a committee that answers to him and which will only investigate the army ranks subservient to him, but will not probe his conduct in relation to the affair. Barak's predecessor, Amir Peretz, tried to do the same immediately following the Second Lebanon War when he appointed an inquiry committee under former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. It did not work.