Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak has asked the Justice Ministry to reimburse him for legal expenses incurred in the Harpaz affair, to the tune of for 150,000 shekels ($43,000).
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His request is based on a 2002 government decision entitling an officeholder or civil servant to claim legal expenses under specific conditions.
In a recent letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Barak also demanded that Weinstein advance the police investigation of the affair without delay and accused Weinstein of dragging his feet on this and other cases.
The Harpaz affair arose over a bitter dispute between Barak and then Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi over who was to be Ashkenazi’s successor. It involved a fabricated letter written by Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz, a reserve officer and associate of Ashkenazi, which detailed false plans supposedly cooked up by the Barak camp to sully Ashkenazi’s name in an attempt to determine who would be the next chief of staff. The State Comptroller’s report of the affair concluded that Ashkenazi’s assistant, Col. Erez Weiner, had prodded Harpaz into collecting incriminating information about Barak and his preferred candidate, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant –- and that Ashkenazi had at least partial knowledge of this.
Barak hired the services of attorney Navot Tal Tzur for various legal proceedings related to the Harpaz affair, including his response to the draft of the State Comptroller’s report. Like others involved in the case, Barak preferred to hire the services of a senior attorney even though he had access to legal experts who work for the government. Neither Ashkenazi, Weiner, nor Galant submitted requests to be reimbursed for legal expenses.
A few months ago the attorney general instructed the police to investigate additional suspicions against Ashkenazi and Weiner that surfaced in an investigation conducted by Metzah, the Military Police investigative department, together with Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni.
Barak recently wrote a letter to Weinstein demanding that he advance the police investigation of the affair. He also reproached the attorney general for his handling of the case and hinted at foot-dragging by Weinstein in other volatile cases, especially that of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was recently acquitted of fraud and breach of trust charges.
“The severity of these matters and the clear public interest require a full police investigation, which will lead to an examination of the truth and applying the full force of the law to those responsible,” wrote Barak to the attorney general via Tel Tzur. “Despite the above-mentioned, about five months have passed since the report of the opening of a police investigation, and there have been no evident investigative activities regarding the issue! We have already seen how foot-dragging and delaying necessary investigative activities can eventually prevent the implementation of a comprehensive and exhaustive investigation and the filing of an indictment of public importance,” he wrote, alluding to the Lieberman case. “There should be no need to expand on the extreme lack of reasonableness in such conduct… Please note that the outgoing defense minister has no intention of returning to business as usual regarding any attempt to blur the seriousness of the case or to whitewash it.”
It is believed that in the coming weeks the police will begin to summon senior figures involved in the Harpaz affair for interrogation. A leading legal source told Haaretz that the Metzah investigation turned up new evidence against Ashkenazi and Weiner, reinforcing past suspicions of fraud, breach of faith and interfering with the investigation.
Justice Ministry spokesman attorney Moshe Cohen said in response: “On the issue of Ehud Barak - recently the committee received a request for participation in legal expenses for the response to the draft of the State Comptroller’s report regarding the Harpaz affair. The request is being handled and is scheduled to come up for discussion before the committee. Regarding the Harpaz affair, as it is known, the subject is under investigation, led by the Israel Police, in cooperation with Metzah.”
The committee for the reimbursement of legal expenses is headed by the director general of the Justice Ministry, Dr. Guy Rotkopf, and includes representatives from the Finance Ministry and the Civil Service Commission.