IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said yesterday that he should have shredded the Galant document and not shown it to other officers, including candidates who lost to Major General Yoav Galant in their bid to become the next IDF chief. In an unusual interview with Army Radio, Ashkenazi denied claims holding that the forged Galant document was an attempted putsch directed against Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The Galant document, whose contents were disclosed last August, appeared to document a smear campaign against Ashkenazi and against Galant's rivals, as part of an effort to guarantee that Galant would win the appointment. Under police questioning, Ashkenazi associate Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz admitted to forging the document.
Ashkenazi said during the interview: "I don't know whether I was misled by Harpaz, but I continue to have unanswered questions about the document."
He said he is waiting for the results of an investigation carried out by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
Addressing questions posed by interviewer Ilana Dayan, Ashkenazi stated: "I receive innumerable unimportant documents that I shred, and perhaps that's what I should have done with this one. The responsibility for taking care of the document is mine ... The gap between the letter and rumors of a putsch is pathetic. I did not think, and I do not think, that Yoav Galant had a part in this affair."
Ashkenazi said that "Yoav has the tools, qualifications and experience needed to take the IDF where it should go."
Generally, Chief of Staff Ashkenazi has during his four-year term refrained from giving media interviews. On occasion, he has agreed to be interviewed by Army Radio. His words addressing the Galant document in yesterday's radio interview accord with statements he made to top IDF officers soon after the affair erupted, and also with brief statements he has made in the past in public speeches.
It was reported yesterday in Haaretz that in early November Ashkenazi asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to investigate leaks of documents connected to Harpaz. The chief of staff believes that these leaks to the media were a security breach; they included disclosure of classified details concerning IDF special operations.
Ashkenazi's comments on Army Radio reflect the tactic he has followed concerning the Galant document affair: He admits to making minor errors and, while continuing his standoff against Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has desisted completely from leveling accusations against his designated replacement, Galant. The latter is scheduled to replace Ashkenazi in two months, and the two IDF officers have been conducting an orderly handover. Galant and Ashkenazi meet frequently, and Galant has been touring various IDF branches with an eye to studying parts of the army with which he has had relatively little connection in the past.
It appears that the current IDF chief believes that an open confrontation with Galant (whose appointment as his successor Ashkenazi opposed ) would bring harm to the IDF, and to Ashkenazi himself. In contrast, Ashkenazi appears to be furious with Barak, and he is likely to escalate his conflict with the defense minister after his discharge from the army. Hostility between the two men has not abated. Though the public has shown flagging interest in the Harpaz affair, Barak and Ashkenazi continue to deal intensively with it.
The State Comptroller's Office is expected to complete a draft of its investigation of the Galant document within two months. Past experience indicates that following the completion of this draft, another three or four months will elapse before the state comptroller's report on the affair reaches the public - that means that Lindenstrauss will bring his findings to the public at the start of summer 2011, long after Ashkenazi's discharge from the army.
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