The investigation of the Harpaz document affair is nearing its conclusion, senior police officials said Wednesday. The final witness, former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, came to answer police questions on Tuesday. Senior police officers involved will meet over the next few days to figure out how to proceed with the case. Their recommendations are to be presented to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
The affair began with a document that was forged, allegedly by Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, in order to defame Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, the leading candidate to succeed Lt. Gen. (res.) Gaby Ashkenazi as IDF chief of staff in 2011. The affair – which later expanded into a much broader inquiry into the tense relationship between Ashkenazi and Barak – includes suspicions that close associates of Ashkenazi, including Harpaz; Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, the former Israel Defense Forces spokesman; and Col. (res.) Erez Weiner, Ashekanzi’s bureau chief when he was chief of staff, were digging for dirt about Barak, with or without Ashkenazi’s knowledge.
The police are of the opinion – at this stage – that there is enough evidence to support the allegations against some of those involved in the affair. The police may recommend to Weinstein to indict Ashkenazi, Benayahu, Weiner, and Avichai Mandelblit, the cabinet secretary who was military advocate general at the time of the affair.
As for Ashkenazi, the police feel there is enough evidence to back up the original suspicions of breach of trust and obstruction of justice. Ashkenazi is also suspected of providing classified information to unauthorized persons, including journalists. Ashekenazi’s wife Ronit was also questioned by police due to her close relationship with Harpaz, but it is still unclear whether she could face charges.
Lahav 433, the national police unit tasked with fighting corruption and organized crime - and often called Israel’s FBI – is conducting the investigation.
Police investigators suspect Benayahu and Weiner of conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust, destroying evidence, theft and other charges.
Barak has testified twice to the police, and has reportedly stuck with his story: The minute Ashkenazi realized that Galant was the leading candidate for chief of staff, Ashkenazi threatened Barak, calling it a declaration of war against him. Barak said Ashkenazi also tried to prevent a number of other appointments he had decided on.
The police suspect Ashkenazi sought to humiliate Barak, and Weiner and Benayahu were supposed to help him by collecting potentially embarrassing information against Barak. In addition, Benayahu and Weiner are suspected of keeping top secret documents on their private computers; some of the information concerned IDF operations and plans, which police said endangered the public.
Harpaz is suspected of obstructing an investigation, forgery, abetting breach of trust, invasion of privacy and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Barak and Ashkenazi came into conflict over Operation Cast Lead, which took place in Gaza in early 2009, mainly over who was deserving of public praise for the operation’s success and the restoration of IDF honor following the Second Lebanon War.
Later, Ashkenazi and Barak quarreled over Galant. Barak wanted to name Galant as Ashkenazi’s successor. Ashkenazi, who despised Galant, preferred that General Gadi Eisenkot replace him as IDF chief of staff. At that point, a document surfaced, detailing falsified plans among the Barak camp to launch a mudslinging campaign against Askhenazi. A police investigation ensued, and the counterfeiter was identified as Harpaz, a reserve officer and associate of Ashkenazi. His name immediately became associated with the document.
The police spokesman said: “As to reports on conclusions being investigated by Lahav 433 in the Harpaz case, we would like to make it clear that all these reports are the responsibility of those publishing them. The police have no intention of confirming or denying any report that is not an official statement released by the Police Spokesman’s Division. The investigation of the affair is still continuing.”
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