Outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
Outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi attending a farewell event for him on Feb. 2, 2011 with disabled veterans. Photo by Moti Milrod
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The joy of outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was incomplete yesterday. It was not just the forced handshake with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose words of praise sounded as if they had been extricated from him at gunpoint. It seems that the publication of the book, "The Pit," by Dan Margalit and Ronen Bergman on the Harpaz affair, timed perfectly to grab headlines, bothered him more.

Even on Army Radio there was more time given to the publication of the book, which makes Ashkenazi look pretty bad, than the typical praise for the now former chief of staff. One could not help but notice the gap between the speeches of brothers in arms, bereaved parents and the leadership of the country, and the image of Ashkenazi as it is presented in the book, and discussed extensively in the media.

Bergman explained yesterday on Israel Radio that there was pressing urgency to put out the book as quickly as possible because the information in it is important to the public. However, it is hard not to suspect that there were commercial considerations at play. The timing, as the ceremonies were still going on, ensured maximum attention and probably significant sales too.

Ashkenazi, who tends to be a little paranoid these days - which does not mean that people are not necessarily gunning for him - is convinced that this was a premeditated attempt to sabotage his departure and stain his public image ahead of the final draft of the State Comptroller's report on the case.

"The Pit" is the first book that is trying to present the battle for the post of chief of staff. One of its achievements is in framing the fact that as reporters, we missed it: If Ashkenazi admits that Boaz Harpaz systematically relayed to him intelligence from those around Barak, on his conspiracies against him, then the chief of staff had a mole in the minister's office.

However, Bergman and Margalit do not explain who Harpaz's sources were in the office (Barak says that Harpaz had no one ) and do not give much attention to the issue of whether the information Harpaz had to give was genuine. Ashkenazi is convinced that it is.

Bergman and Margalit certainly know how to tell a story. It appears that they did thorough research and it is evident in "The Pit." Among the troubling details are those on the extent of the suspicions of corruption in the special operations network in military intelligence.