Today the High Court of Justice will decide whether and how the former state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, will continue investigating the process by which the IDF chief of staff is appointed, and the relationship between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
The court will rule on whether to give Lindenstrauss, despite his recent retirement, three months to complete his report. One of those three months has already gone by.
The principals' positions have reversed since the issue was brought before the High Court. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who insisted that Lindenstrauss continue to deal with the report, is now wondering whether he should have simply let the former state comptroller duck the matter.
Lindenstrauss insisted that the report not be left hanging as the new comptroller, Joseph Shapira, entered office. But he's no longer sure he should be so eager to show Ashkenazi and his former aide Erez Weiner that they won't be the ones to decide which comptroller signs the report.
Not that the Ashkenazi-Weiner camp necessarily still cares who signs it, because Lindenstrauss has since seen some eye-opening material. Some of it he had when he wrote the draft that was handed out to subjects of the report in March, but to which proper attention was not paid at the time. The second report, which will be handed out to the subjects within weeks, won't tend to favor Barak this time. Lindenstrauss won't apologize for the gap between the end and the beginning; part of the comptroller's job is to clarify interim assumptions.
The report's second draft, more balanced than the first, won't turn white to black. It is expected to paint both sides gray, one a lighter shade than the other, as an expression of the reality from 2009 to 2010. It will show that Barak was responsible for the attack on Ashkenazi but will not absolve Ashkenazi entirely from the way he defended himself.
On other issues, such as the destruction of recordings at the Defense Ministry and the dispatching of an associate to secretly record an officer, the investigation has dug deeper in a way that can no longer favor Barak.
Lindenstrauss is a former state comptroller who is operating without actual authority; his former subordinates are under the new comptroller. In this way, Lindenstrauss is in a position like that of Ashkenazi after Barak appointed Yoav Galant the new chief of staff. Ashkenazi was like Samson shorn of his curls after years at the pinnacle of power, a moment before the painful emergence into civilian life.
But the storm raging at the State Comptroller's Office didn't start over the enforced cooperation of Lindenstrauss and Shapira. And Shapira isn't looking for a fight; he considers the attorney general an ally, not an adversary.
The real tension threatening to spill over is among the various levels of officialdom dealing with the Harpaz report; that paper was on improper efforts to influence the selection of the next chief of staff. The principals generating the tension provide metaphors for the Harpaz affair.
There are "colonels" - retired colonels and lieutenant colonels, the people on the comptroller's team (Hovav Shapira, Haim Leshem, Itzik Lev, Yigal Sheffy ); a "general" - retired Maj. Gen. Ya'akov Orr, the outgoing head of the comptroller unit investigating the security establishment; and the "ministerial level" - Lindenstrauss. Orr and Lindenstrauss continue to volunteer their services.
A search committee this week published an external tender for a new head of the comptroller team investigating the security establishment. The tender has a declared preference for retired generals. Hovav Shapira, who saw himself as the internal candidate for the post, has withdrawn.
The colonels are digging in to their trench that came under heavy fire in the form of Weiner and Ashkenazi's criticism of the first draft report. Orr is between them and Lindenstrauss, whose signature will finalize the report, perhaps, as new comptroller Shapira's might, too. If the report doesn't deal wisely with the attacks on the factual, legal and public fronts, a dark shadow will be cast over its authors.
Beyond the details, Lindenstrauss finds himself facing off against Israel's history. The report will reveal the truth about Barak's actions. It will reveal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's failures to act; a passive and indifferent prime minister who doesn't care a jot about the conflicts between the defense minister and the chief of staff.
Such a report will make it hard for this pair to embark on unrestrained adventures. Such a report might be a surprising form of Ashkenazi's contribution two years ago to thwarting Barak and Netanyahu's premature Iranian operation.
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