Ehud Barak Ltd.
Though it's tempting to focus on Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz, the problem exposed in an IDF probe is a systemic one, that doesn't start or end with him.
Here's a serious finding, which doesn't appear in the State Comptroller's report but emerged in previous internal IDF investigations: In at least two instances, parents of teens who were about to be drafted paid Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz thousands of shekels so that their sons would be assigned to Military Intelligence.
Harpaz's lawyer, Yaron Kosteliz, was asked about this issue this week and answered apologetically, "As with many other things attributed to my client, I have no clue," since the material from the Harpaz investigation hasn't been submitted to him yet.
This incident was revealed to a committee appointed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to check how Harpaz seemed to have free reign over the defense establishment. Members of the panel were shocked to see the anarchy that prevailed in the Special Operations Branch of Military Intelligence; despite information on a number of foul-ups by Harpaz, no one was overseeing the secret methods he was using to equip his units with the resources needed for intelligence operations.
Though it's tempting to focus on Harpaz, the problem exposed in this probe is a systemic one, that doesn't start or end with him. It turns out that Special Operations is an organization-within-an-organization-within-an-organization that no one was supervising. Not the Military Intelligence chief, a position once filled by Ehud Barak, not the chief of General Staff, a position Barak also filled, and not the defense minister, a post Barak has now filled for a total of five years, and not the prime minister, a position also held by Barak with no particular distinction.
The money spent by the Mossad and the Shin Bet security service is audited; not that of Special Operations; no one in Special Operations undergoes a polygraph test, either. Given this, Barak absorbed a serious blow yesterday.
Barak had hoped to tie Harpaz to former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and is hoping that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will do the same in a report the latter is writing on the forgery of the so-called "Galant Document." It isn't clear whether Ashkenazi will come out looking worse than Barak in that report, though it is likely that Lindenstrauss will have some harsh things to say about his judgment.
But the way it looks now, two-and-half months before that report is due, Ashkenazi will be cleared of allegations that he had been Harpaz's active partner in trying to scuttle Yoav Galant's appointment as chief of staff. Barak, meanwhile, has been hit by another Lindenstrauss report, whose ethical and professional ramifications cannot be belittled.
With regard to his failure to hand over control of his business interests in time, the comptroller said that Barak didn't hew to the "high level of behavior" expected and "left doubts about the propriety of his conduct," though he didn't find anything warranting a criminal investigation.
It reminds one of the "Barak nonprofit associations" scandal, in which Barak was inadvertently cleared by then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein. Barak was covered, but this coverage revealed his nakedness, rather than obscured it.
Barak likes to compare himself to an expert surgeon: The patient doesn't have to like you, he says, it's enough that he's saved the patient's life. That's actually a strange analogy, given that several senior physicians have been brought to court in recent years and were convicted of bribery and other crimes.
But what's worse is that neither Barak, nor Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his partner in taking this government who-knows-where, don't understand that their behavior over the years, which frequently skirted the boundaries of the criminal, is not acceptable for leading a country or an army during a time of crisis. After all, in September we are going to face a huge confrontation, if not with the Palestinians and the Americans, according to Netanyahu's line, then within Israeli society itself.
There will be a rift in society - both civilians and soldiers will want to know what we are fighting for and being killed for - and it will demand a leadership that is clean, moral and exemplary. Not Ehud Barak Inc., and not the hotel and airline industry run by Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu.
Whoever claims the right to say "Follow me," must be careful, lest someone ask him where. They won't want to follow our leaders to hotel rooms costing thousands of dollars a night, or through the dust of conflicts of interest that a fast broom manages to sweep away before the leaders get caught.