Col. Erez Weiner
Col. Erez Weiner Photo by Courtesy
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Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has stalled the appointment of Col. Erez Weiner as the Israel Defense Forces chief education officer until the state comptroller has completed his report into the so-called Harpaz affair. Weiner is suspected of having ordered the collection of defamatory information against Defense Minister Ehud Barak as part of the affair.

Former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' report on the affair - an alleged plot to prevent Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant's appointment as Chief of Staff - is far from reaching its conclusion, and could still further affect future appointments in the IDF. Lindenstrauss is set to issue his final report by October 3.

Gantz has decided that Weiner will be offered a different post until Lindenstrauss completes his report.

Army Radio reported on Thursday that Gantz reached his decision following a series of meetings with Weiner.

An IDF spokesman said the decision was made "after serious consideration, and added: "Until the comptroller's report is complete, and barring any judicial or other problem, Col. Weiner will compete for another post as brigadier general."

Weiner was named as the next chief education officer in August 2010, but his alleged involvement in the Harpaz affair delayed the appointment.

The draft of the state comptroller's report slammed Weiner, alleging he directed Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz to assemble defamatory information against Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.

Weiner, previously an aide to former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, is still waging a battle against the draft report's conclusions, saying his relations with Harpaz were no more than "gossip," and that he never conspired with Harpaz against Barak as part of a struggle between the defense minister and Ashkenazi.

Weiner's attorney, Oded Savoray, said: "The Chief of Staff isn't familiar with the details of the state comptroller's report, nor with Weiner's responses, submitted to the comptroller orally and in writing. The timing of the decision is regrettable, such a short time before the final report is published, and we believe that once the affair is concluded, Col. Weiner's promotion will be realized, as decided by the General Staff and the former Chief of Staff."

In contradiction to Savoray's statement, Gantz has read the full version of the draft report and has probably consulted with Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Danny Efroni.

Gantz, who protected Weiner as long as he could, had no choice but to stall Weiner's appointment. Since Gantz and his staff understand that it is highly unlikely the final report will clear Weiner from most of the charges, the stains will remain, and his appointment would definitely be controversial.

Thursday's decision, which was expected for some time, does not signal the end of Weiner's woes. The Military Advocate General could still consider disciplinary or even criminal proceedings against him after the comptroller's final report.

Weiner isn't the only one likely to suffer from the report. The draft also says that several Military Intelligence officers, some of them senior, and other officials from elite units, had discussed future appointments with Harpaz in Military Intelligence.

Another significant question mark hangs over the future of Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, currently on academic leave. Eizenkot is Gantz's preferred future deputy, but the comptroller's draft report details the alleged activities of his friends in the leaking to Channel 2 of a document allegedly forged by Harpaz that was designed to influence the appointment of the next Chief of Staff. The draft report also moderately criticizes Eizenkot's own alleged obsessive dealing with the document before it was published. Barak may find that reason enough to thwart Eizenkot's promotion, which until recently seemed like a done deal.

Any hopes that the affair is almost over are unrealistic. Contrary to media speculations, it seems that Lindenstrauss will not make major changes in his final report, which points a finger at Ashkenazi and Weiner. One can realistically expect only minor changes, probably adding weight to Barak's alleged problematic behavior during the war of attrition with Ashkenazi.

Lindenstrauss is set to complete an "almost final" version of his report in mid-September and submit it to the interested parties, who might again raise objections to the conclusions. In this case, new State Comptroller Joseph Shapira will probably renegotiate with the parties, thus further postponing the final report, probably to at least the end of the year.