Amos Harel / Don't exonerate the top brass so fast
Until the truth behind the Galant affair comes out, a shadow will hover over whoever the defense minister names as chief of staff.
Despite the praises lavished on the police by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the Galant document affair just wouldn't die. The source of the leak came out in the open, the police have an arrest warrant for the main suspect of the forgery, but much of the affair remains unknown.
The identity of the leaker and even more so, the identity of the forgery suspect, raise doubt about the decision of the police and the attorney general to exonerate the rest of the defense and military top brass. The alleged connections between the suspect and the circles of the chief of staff and possibly other IDF bureaus necessitate a deeper investigation of this strange and disturbing affair, and may yet delay the process of appointing the next chief of staff.
Police sources named the main suspect as Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz, who played several roles in Sayeret Matkal and in Military Intelligence. When Harpaz was asked to terminate his service in the Israel Defense Forces on suspicions of misconduct, one of the officers who took interest and sought to ensure the punishment wasn't too severe was then deputy-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
This is where the question of the leak comes in. It seems Siboni was an innocent messenger. The good doctor believed the document was real and so leaked it. Did whoever gave it to Siboni aim to forestall Galant's appointment? The timing seems appropriate. After all, the document was released on Channel 2 just two days after Barak announced he had begun the appointment process.
Ashkenazi's bureau, although no suspicions of anything criminal lie in its direction, is mired deep in the affair. The chief of staff himself got the document, believed it and showed it to Eizenkot, Benny Gantz and possibly other generals. He didn't take it to the prime minister or the attorney general, but neither did he bury it in his safe. It appears now that his aide, Col. Erez Weiner, gave the document to Siboni, who leaked it to a journalist via another intermediary. And if this wasn't enough, the chief of staff knows the suspected forger. Then there's the question of how to define forgery. It's enough to forge the logo of Eyal Arad's office - which the police believes to have proved by now - to define the entire document as a fake. But Harpaz's affiliates, many of whom didn't hesitate to heap unflattering epithets on him after he was revealed to be a suspect, claim writing such a sophisticated document is too complex for him.
Here comes again a theory voiced in the earliest days of the affair: Ashkenazi got an authentic document but his source added a fake logo, to make it appear even more authentic to the chief of staff. But as long as there's no proof of a connection between that source to the circles of the defense minister, a theory is all it is.
Right now, the arrows are pointing to Ashkenazi's circles, especially the more distant ones. If the chief of staff and his rival, the defense minister, have one thing in common is that the wider circles of both men hold plenty of dubious characters who'd happily lend their hands to the mess, whether to promote the interests of the big boss, even without his knowledge, in the spirit of anticipatory compliance, or for interests of their own.
As of now, police have barely scratched the surface of the affair. There's something else to worry about. If the document is a fake, what does it say about the IDF top brass for leaping so happily into the fray and about their decision making in other, more crucial matters?
Despite all the unanswered questions, Barak has renewed the appointment process and appears to be determined to announce the new chief of staff as soon as possible. This may be a mistake. As long as matters remain unclear, there will be a shadow hovering over whatever decision the defense minister makes.
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