Scandal that rocked IDF's elite is withering away on the shelf
The Harpaz report will have to wait until after the heat of the comptroller's report on the Carmel fire has diminished.
Two lieutenant colonels in the reserves have entered the arena. Both were born in the mid-1960s, live in Modi'in and served in Military Intelligence. To the right is the prosecutor, Dan Eldad, who heads the special assignments division in the State Prosecutor's Office. To the left is Boaz Harpaz, a suspected document forger. There is supposed to be a judge in between. But there is no judge, no charges have been filed and an anxious public is asking what has become of the Harpaz case.
As intelligence officers, their paths never crossed. They came face-to-face about a year ago, at a discussion of whether to extend Harpaz's foreign travel ban. But Eldad's address book contains many of the people who were cited in the course of the investigation as colleagues of Harpaz from his time at MI, where Eldad still does active reserve duty in a senior position.
Harpaz was investigated over his role in the so-called Galant Document affair, involving the creation and dissemination of a document purporting to outline a public relations campaign for Yoav Galant's bid to be chosen Israel Defense Forces chief of staff in the summer of 2010.
The case, whose witnesses for the prosecution include former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenzai, yawned sleepily until it nodded off. It will be roused from slumber after the State Comptroller's Office inquiry is completed. We'll hazard a wild guess as to when the draft report might be made public: about an hour after the subjects of the investigation receive it.
Barring an act of God, no newspaper - and in this regard the state comptroller should be seen as a newspaper - would want to release two momentous reports on the same day. The Harpaz report will have to wait until after the heat of the comptroller's report on the Carmel fire has diminished.
The suspects are not asking the state to hurry up and try them. The prosecutors are dragging their feet, waiting for the comptroller's report in the very unlikely event that it contains new and surprising details they need to consider.
The criminal case will focus on the alleged forgery. It does not care about the publication of the document by the media, which broke no law. Nor does it have an interest in the relationship between Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in the machinations within various government offices and in the badmouthing of wives and aides over the phone.
The bargaining with Harpaz's lawyers - Jacob Weinroth, Yechiel Weinroth and Yaron Kosteliz - ended about six months ago. In the meantime the investigation file was submitted to the defense team. Contrary to rumor it does not contain a wealth of intelligence and operational secrets, because the police officers who questioned Harpaz did not write down anything he said. Eldad, with the support of MI, redacted a few names and unit numbers. He was later reunited on television with copies of the marked-up pages.
In one of the interview sessions - the 15th, or the 17th - Harpaz admitted to the forgery. One of his lawyers later announced that he had recanted, but when he was questioned again Harpaz denied that he ever recanted; the confession still holds, supported, according to the prosecution, by additional evidence.
But forgery convictions often yield light sentences. A judge might be inclined to show lenience to an officer who has no criminal record and can produce character witnesses who will attest to his contribution to national security.
"The prosecution cares about the charge, the defendant cares about the punishment," said an attorney who is involved in the case. The state will likely be looking in the general area of Article 418 of the criminal code (which provides for a maximum prison sentence of one year for forging a document, three years for forgery with intent to profit and five years for aggravated forgery ). For its part, the defense will lobby for a less serious charge, such as Article 416, benefiting from deception or from the intentional exploitation of someone else's mistake but without fraud. This offense carries a maximum sentence of two years.
The "benefit" that Harpaz allegedly received was Ashkenazi's goodwill and gratitude. The criminal intent, according to the prosecution, was to influence the process of appointing the chief of staff. Factual and legal weakness in these claims could tempt the authorities into reaching a plea bargain. But the head of the police investigation branch, Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich, argues that in order to maintain public trust in the justice system this case must go to trial, whatever the outcome. Whether it is genuine or a bargaining tactic, Eldad is espousing a similar approach. The decision is in the hands of the attorney general and the state prosecutor; the timing, as usual of late, is in the hands of the state comptroller.