Prosecutor calls Ashkenazi's Harpaz conduct 'embarrassing'
The Harpaz case broke last summer over a forged document apparently intended to derail the appointment of Yoav Galant as Ashkenazi's successor as IDF chief of staff.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador on Friday called the conduct of former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's office "embarrassing" in connection with the so-called Harpaz affair. Lador also said Ashkenazi's explanations regarding the delay in providing the document at the center of the affair to the police are "difficult to accept."
The Harpaz case broke last summer over a document that appeared to be a plan to promote Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as Ashkenazi's successor as IDF chief of staff by sullying the reputation of Galant's competition. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi has denied all involvement in the smear campaign against Galant.
Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz later confessed to forging the document, and said he acted alone. Galant was nominated to succeed Ashkenazi, but the nomination was later withdrawn over allegations over Galant's own conduct regarding matters related to his house at Moshav Amikam.
Although Lador has expressed the opinion that the case should be further examined by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, he also said there is no basis for a criminal investigation against Ashkenazi, despite the latest allegations raised by Channel 1 reporter Ayala Hasson-Nesher.
Earlier this month, Channel 1 reported that Harpaz and Ashkenazi's wife, Ronit, had exchanged some 1,500 text messages and that Ronit Ashkenazi apparently mediated between Harpaz and residents of Moshav Amikam who allegedly had information against Galant.
Lador appeared on Channel 1 on Friday to dispel Channel 1's allegations that called the good judgment of both Lador and the police into question in the Harpaz case. Ashkenazi returned to Israel on Thursday and is thought likely to provide his account to Lindenstrauss this week. Lador confirmed most of the allegations the station reported and caused additional damage to Ashkenazi's standing.
Last year the police recommended that Harpaz alone be indicted in the case. Lador confirmed to Channel 1 that, two days after the existence of the Harpaz document was revealed, Chief of Staff Ashkenazi and Harpaz spoke by phone for 17 minutes - a call in which, according to Lador, Ashkenazi told Harpaz that he would provide his account to investigators and would tell the truth. He urged Harpaz to do the same. Lador called it improper but not a violation of the law for the call to have taken place. According to Channel 1, the call was initiated by Ashkenazi.
For his part, Lador defended the conduct of the investigating team in the Harpaz affair. He also confirmed other details in the case that had been reported recently, including the fact that 420 cellphone text messages were found on Harpaz's personal computer, among 1,490 instances in which Ronit Ashkenazi and Harpaz communicated with each other over a five-month period before the case became public.
Lador said the police did not have the ability to decode the content of deleted text messages sent by cellphone unless the cellphone is being wiretapped at the time.
When asked why the police had not confiscated Ronit Ashkenazi's cellphone, Lador said law enforcement had to exercise restraint in the interest of the protection of privacy. Ronit Ashkenazi was also found to be telling the truth in denying involvement in the forgery of the Galant document when she underwent a lie detector test, Lador added. Channel 1 reported that when Harpaz underwent a polygraph test and insisted he acted alone in forging the document, he was found to be lying.
The television station also quoted from what it claimed to be cellphone text messages exchanged among Harpaz, Ronit Ashkenazi and Ashkenazi's aide, Col. Erez Weiner. They reportedly related to IDF appointment procedures, and Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's efforts to gather evidence of wrongdoing by Galant in an effort to scuttle his candidacy as chief of staff. Lador said some of the references in the communications, which allegedly included the use of code words, were unpleasant but not criminal.