AG Ignored Prosecution Advice to Indict Harpaz for Forgery

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Boaz Harpaz outside his home when he was in the media spotlight in 2014 during the so-called Harpaz affair.
Boaz Harpaz outside his home when he was in the media spotlight in 2014 during the so-called Harpaz affair. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

A legal team from the State Prosecutor’s Office’s recommended as early as November 2010 to renew the police investigation into the Harpaz affair and to consider putting then-IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on trial for obstruction of justice, Haaretz has learned.

But the attorney general and the IDF prosecutor rejected the recommendations. A new investigation into the affair, opened last August, is reexamining a series of charges including the suspicions that Ashkenazi committed obstruction of justice in the course of the investigation.

After a forged document smearing a top general, was published by Channel 2 on August 6, 2010, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered the Israel Police to find out who composed the document, and check if senior IDF officers were connected to the crime. The police conducted a short investigation over a few weeks, which found Lt. Col. (ret.) Boaz Harpaz was responsible for forging the document without Ashkenazi’s knowledge.

The police found that there was no criminal involvement from other senior IDF officers, and recommended putting an end to the investigation, save for putting Harpaz on trial for the forgery and other related crimes. A hearing was held for Harpaz with his defense attorney, but the pending indictment was frozen due to other developments in the case.

Haaretz learned on November 11 2010 that Weinstein also received other recommendations from a team of state prosecutors. The team proposed that Weinstein order the Israel Police to finalize the investigation by taking a few more steps, such as looking into a conversation between Ashkenazi and Harpaz from two days after the document was published.

What turned up was an attempt to bring Harpaz back into active IDF service and to promote him to the rank of colonel. The information gathered also raised questions about the nature of the relationship between Harpaz and Ashkenazi’s wife, Ronit Ashkenazi.

The team also recommended back in 2010 that Weinstein pass on the investigation’s findings to then-IDF chief prosecutor, Avihai Mandelbilt, so that he could also look into certain aspects of the affair, all of which were under media scrutiny.

The legal team recommended that Mandelbilt check if there were grounds to continue the investigation into Ashkenazi’s phone call with Harpaz that gave rise to suspicions of obstruction of justice, into his testimony to the police, and into a Harpaz’s claim that Ashkenazi asked him to check if his political rival, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak, had financial ties to private businessmen.

Another recommendation was to open an investigation into Col. Erez Weiner who was an aide to the chief of staff for obstruction of justice and conduct not befitting an officer over his conduct during the investigation and over his suspected involvement in Harpaz collecting information on Barak.

Weinstein considered the recommendations but was satisfied to turn the attention of the State Comptroller’s Office, which had already begun looking into the affair, to some of the issues raised by the State Prosecutor’s Office. After IDF prosecution officials looked over the materials, Mandelbilt and Weinstein decided that there was not enough evidence to continue the investigations, or to launch a military police investigation into the matter.

The turning point in the case came only three years later. Mandelbilt’s replacement, Gen. Danny Efroni, found recorded conversations from Ashkenazi’s office, and convinced Weinstein to reopen the investigation in August 2013, despite the latter’s misgivings and reservations. The investigation heated up in early March as Col. (res.) Weiner and former IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Benihu were detained for questioning, and many others were called in by police.

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