State Comptroller Launches Probe Into Forgery at Center of Row Over IDF Chief Appointment

Police recommend charges be brought against Lt. Col. suspected of forging document that aimed to sway appointment in favor of Galant.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss announced Tuesday that his office has launched an investigation into a forged document that aimed to influence the appointment of the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff.

For a number of weeks the state comptroller's staff has been collecting documents and information on the affair, in which Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz has been implicated.

Boaz Harpaz, Alon Raz
Alon Raz

The forged document was supposed to have detailed a plan by top PR company Arad Communications for a public relations drive that would have presented Major-General Yoav Galant in a positive light, while simultaneously presenting a negative impression of his main rival for the post, Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Benny Gantz.

Galant was later appointed as Ashkenazi's replacement. Both Arad and Galant denied all knowledge of the document, which Harpaz is suspected of having drawn up.

The head of the Defense Desk at the State Comptroller's Office, Maj. Gen. (res.) Ya'akov Or, is carrying out a preliminary, unofficial examination and has gathered a substantial amount of information on the affair.

Police last week delivered their findings to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. The police have recommended that charges be brought against Harpaz for forgery.

Lindenstrauss had been waiting Weinstein's decision before announcing which aspects of the affair his office will investigate.

The spokesman for the state comptroller, Shlomo Raz, told Haaretz earlier this week that the staff has been "studying the issue discreetly for a number of weeks" and planned to "embark on an extensive probe."

Sources familiar with the case added that it is possible to set up "boundaries" between the work of the state comptroller and the separate Brick committee, headed by Yitzhak Brick, the IDF ombudsman, but Lindenstrauss will have the higher authority.

Channel 1 television last Friday reported details on the relationship between Harpaz and current Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

According to the report, during Ashkenazi's time as a businessman - after his retirement from the IDF and before he was appointed for a brief stint as Defense Ministry director general in 2006 - he tried to assist Harpaz in various business deals.

According to the report, Harpaz corresponded extensively with the wife of the chief of staff, Ronit Ashkenazi, who was partly involved in appointments at the General Staff.

Ronit Ashkenazi and Harpaz exchanged around 150 text messages, some about General Staff appointments, according to Channel 1.

In one instance, according to the report, the two discussed the promotion of an officer who had commanded the elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit to brigadier general. But in the end the matter did not progress. The report claims that the officer in question had been involved years earlier in the investigation into Harpaz while he served in intelligence units.

Hasson referred to a Haaretz story that Harpaz had sought to be allowed back into intelligence and be promoted to colonel, even though he had been forced out of the IDF because of field security violations, and his security clearance had been lowered.

The IDF Spokesman's Office denied that there had been efforts to bring Harpaz back to Military Intelligence, describing the story as baseless.

The Harpaz case was investigated by three committees in the army, and despite the severity of his transgressions, Ashkenazi and former Military Intelligence chief Amos Malka intervened on his behalf so he could leave the army with a full pension and benefits, according to Channel 1.

Harpaz said he could not comment on matters involving the investigation.