The Bottom Line of the Harpaz Affair

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A petition filed in Israel's High Court of Justice on Wednesday by Colonel Erez Weiner, who served as assistant to former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Askenazi, will not stall the publication of the State Comptroller's report on the seemingly endless Harpaz affair.

The High Court did not issue an injunction against publishing the report, which is set to be released on Sunday. Apparently, the court will wait until a later date to decide whether or not to accept Weiner's primary request, that any negative statements about him be erased from the final draft.

Details of the final draft, copies of which were distributed to newspapers on Wednesday are still not allowed to be published until the gag order is lifted on Sunday at 4:00 P.M. Details of Weiner's petition were also prohibited from publication for a short time. The bottom line is that the report is still clouded in mystery, a fact which will serve to create even more smokescreens, thus distorting the final picture even further.

All of this is supposed to end, three days from now, and then it is strongly recommended to read the entire report, or at least the 20-page introductory summary, as it will appear on the Comptroller's website, and Haaretz's website as well.

In the meantime, we should pay attention to the interesting comments made by Weiner's attorney, Oded Savorai, during an interview with Israel Radio. In previous drafts of the report, the comptroller accused Weiner of using Harpaz to extract information that could be used to slander Defense Minister Ehud Barak, his chief of staff and other officials close to him, as well as Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant. Weiner staunchly denies this accusation. Now, Savorai's comments make another claim, which has been heard increasingly during the past two months, that Weiner was only carrying out orders and acted as the assistant to the chief of staff would be expected to.

This development gives rise to the question, is the former assistant still steadfast in his desire to be the military version of Shula Zaken, until this sad affair is over? The third leg of this triangle, Lt. Col. (res) Boaz Harpaz, already reinvented himself last May, when he sent a letter to the State Comptroller, which led him to suggest to the state's Legal Adviser Yehuda Weinstein, that the criminal investigation into the affair be renewed. Weinstein has still not commented on this request..

In the past, Harpaz has been quoted as being ready to take the rap for Gabi. It is doubtful if this is his position now. Harpaz, a close associate of Ashkenazi, is a shady source of information. He admitted to forging the document that sits at the heart of the whole affair, and then offered long and varied accounts of the developments. The publication of the final report, the new claims, and the efforts of MK Uri Ariel, chairperson of the State Control Committee, will exert new pressure on Weinstein to order another criminal investigation.

I do not know if these developments are tied to the charged interview that Ashkenazi's spokesman gave to Army Radio on Thursday morning. Mr. Benihu claimed during his interview that "there are [in the report] harsh comments against the Defense Minister and his office. There are also comments, which I feel are less harsh, against Gabi Askenazi. Many of those who looked through previous drafts drew an entirely different conclusion, but we'll have to wait another three days to find out.

Benihu also shared his great dream with the interviewer, Ilana Dayan, that one day, Barak and his wife will sit down to dinner with Ashkenazi and his wife, and "invite Galant for dessert," that all of the parties involved will put this affair behind them. It's a good bet this dream won't be realized any time soon. This fantasy won't come true, and not because Ehud Barak is vindictive and vengeful.

Barak is likely to absorb much criticism in the final draft over his systematic and prolonged mistreatment of the former chief of staff, and a number of incidents which were handled problematically. But Barak will not forgive Ashkenazi, as he knows that at the end of the day, as everyone knows, including the comptroller and his staff, the two sides are completely uneven.

The military establishment is required to be loyal to the elected government, and must not engage in highly unethical (some would say criminal) behavior aimed at an elected government, regardless of the sins of its elected officials.

If there's to be a bottom line to the Harpaz affair, this needs to be the bottom line – and all of the things they will try to wrap it in over the next few days - sweet stories of acts undertaken for the good of the homeland, the reserves which "we all" serve in, the stories of deep sorrow of bereaved families – don't matter. 

Ehud Barak.Credit: Moti Milrod

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