ashkenazi - Tomer Appelbaum - November 12 2010
Gabi Ashkenazi. Just as in the years before the Yom Kippur War, today’s chief of staff wields control over several communications outlets. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi recently asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to determine who leaked documents to the press regarding Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz, the self-confessed forger of an unrelated document (the Galant document ) aimed at affecting the choice of Ashkenazi's successor.

Ashkenazi claimed the leaked documents contain sensitive information about the special operations unit of the General Staff's intelligence division. He therefore demanded that the state take action to recover them from the journalists who obtained them.

Last month, Haaretz, Yedioth Ahronoth and Channel 10 television simultaneously reported new findings about Harpaz, including his connections with Ashkenazi. The reports also described - within the limits imposed by the military censor - Harpaz's activities in both the special ops unit and the elite Sayeret Matkal unit.

The reports were based on the findings of an investigation by IDF ombudsman Avner Barzani, now deceased, into complaints made by Harpaz about his retirement conditions, and apparently on additional internal military documents as well.

A fourth media organization received copies of the documents but chose not to make them public.

Ashkenazi concluded, based on questions the journalists posed to the IDF spokesman, that the documents had the potential to cause great damage to Israeli security. In his request to Weinstein, he argued that the very fact that the documents were leaked constituted a grave blow to state security and recommended that steps be taken to return them to the defense establishment.

Ashkenazi also asked senior defense officials to investigate who was responsible for the leak. They, however, refused, on the grounds that the military censor had in any event prohibited the media from publishing the most sensitive information in the documents, thus avoiding any material damage to state security.

An earlier police investigation involving Harpaz was primarily concerned with the Galant document - whether it was forged, who forged it and how it made its way from Ashkenazi's office to Channel 2 television. The police traced the document's paper trail, but found no evidence of any crime other than the original forgery. In addition, less than two weeks after the investigation began, Weinstein announced that no senior IDF officers were involved in forging the document.