Dragging down public interest in Harpaz affair
The attorney general is apparently hoping that his foot-dragging will contribute to repression of the affair.
What is preventing Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein from investigating the Harpaz affair? The moment an investigation begins, a public sword of Damocles hangs not only over the heads of those being investigated, but over the head of the attorney general as well.
In the end he will have to decide between an indictment and closing the file. In the absence of an investigation, there is no pressure. In any case the election campaign is causing the affair to be forgotten. In another two years the legal cooling off period will be over, and after it former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will be able to enter the political arena, and then the State Comptroller's report that found fault with him will have become a dead letter. Then another attorney general will be occupying Weinstein's seat, and nobody will remember who didn't investigate and why.
Weinstein knows that an investigation will focus on the former chief of staff, his close associates, and Col. Erez Weiner, his assistant, who will soon retire from the Israel Defense Forces. And it will also have to examine the deeds of the chief of staff's wife and her relationship with Boaz Harpaz.
The method for dealing with this unpleasantness is to text as much as you can. The foot-dragging in the matter of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's alleged straw companies contributed to the evaporation of the main case, as indicated by a perusal of Weinstein's own reasons for closing it. Weinstein expressed regret for that, but it's not clear whether the regret was directed at Lieberman or at the public.
Back in May, then-State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss turned to the attorney general with a request to open a criminal investigation. Lindenstrauss wrote that an examination of the Harpaz affair raised a suspicion of serious criminal offenses, which he was not authorized to investigate, and could not investigate. The comptroller is authorized to investigate the IDF, but not civilians such as Harpaz or the wife of the chief of staff. The comptroller added in his report that a great deal of evidence was kept from him, due to the opposition of the Shin Bet security services and because the police investigation focused on the forging of the Harpaz letter and did not deal with other aspects.
Lindenstrauss realized that the report revealed only part of the sad situation among the IDF leadership. The State Comptroller's Law obligated him, to the best of his judgment, to return the entire issue to a criminal investigation, which would reveal the entire picture. In addition, the comptroller explained in a letter to the attorney general that those under investigation, headed by Col. Wiener, demanded that they receive all the investigative material, which was liable to prevent a future criminal investigation.
Weinstein insisted on continuing the comptroller's investigations, perhaps because in any case he believed that the affair should not be investigated. Did he contribute to a disruption of a future investigation by doing so? We'll never know.
Weinstein appointed a team to examine the comptroller's materials and to decide whether to open an investigation. The team is superfluous. The materials have been sitting on the attorney general's desk for the past eight months. The Justice Ministry is already familiar with them. What else is there to learn?
In any case the evidentiary material is partial, as the state comptroller explains in his letter, and therefore it would be a serious omission to close the file without an additional investigation. What can a team that looks at a partial and ostensibly criminal evidentiary picture decide? Only that a further investigation is necessary.
In 2000, then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein ordered a criminal investigation a day after receiving the comptroller's report about Ehud Barak's non-profit organizations. In 2004, then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz needed a week in order to turn the report on Tzachi Hanegbi's political appointments into a criminal investigation. The comptroller's report about the suspicion that Ehud Olmert steered the tender for the sale of Bank Leumi was investigated only after two and a half months because Mazuz transferred the decision to State Prosecutor Eran Shendar. Other reports concerning Olmert were delayed even more, due to the large number of files against him.
Closing the file without an investigation can be done only in the absence of public interest. The attorney general is apparently hoping that his foot-dragging will contribute to repression of the affair. Col. Weiner has paid with his military career, while the comptroller reprimanded both Ashkenazi and Barak.
Those developments may lead to Weinstein's salvation in the guise of a lack of public interest. That is an intolerable outcome. In the affair of Bus 300, then-Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir refused to remain silent in light of the lies and fraud in the top echelons of the Shin Bet. Weinstein is not made of the same stuff, but his decisions are not immune to review in the High Court of Justice.