Israel's Democracy at Stake in Harpaz Affair

Whether former IDF chief of staff Ashkenazi is telling the truth or not about the Harpaz affair, the testimony of Mossad chief Tamir Pardo has indicted him morally and publicly.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

One fact among all the facts that were mentioned this week in Ilana Dayan's "Uvda" ("Fact") investigative television program was enough. Current Mossad chief Tamir Pardo gave evidence to the police that his working assumption is that the person who gave the instruction to leak the "Harpaz Document" to Channel 2 was then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. The Harpaz Document - which Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, a close associate of Ashkenazi, is suspected of forging - contained false accusations against the Defense Minister and the GOC Southern Command, with the aim of ensuring that the former would not appoint the latter to be the next chief of staff. Ashkenazi says in his defense that he did not know the document was forged. However, whether the former chief of staff is telling the truth or whether he is prevaricating, the testimony of the Mossad chief has indicted him morally and publicly.

If the head of the Mossad is correct, the commander of the Israeli armed forces was behind a move that incited the public in Israel against the government. If the head of the Mossad is correct, the commander of the Israeli armed forces led an unarmed uprising against the elected government.

According to Pardo's version of events, there was not merely a colonel's revolt here in the summer of 2010, but a revolt by a general. A revolt by General Putsch. Pardo gave evidence to the police on August 18, 2010. The police reported to the attorney general about the evidence on the same day.

In the 17 months that have passed, the attorney general has not done a thing about the sensational evidence. He has not instructed the Israel Police to investigate whether senior officers in the Israel Defense Forces were plotting something. He has not instructed the Shin Bet security service to investigate whether in the general staff there was some kind of rebellious event. He has not instructed the military advocate general to investigate whether the chief of staff operated in contravention of IDF values. He did not even recommend the establishment of a state commission of inquiry that would make the truth known. The attorney general did not take one step to try and clean out the stables in the Kirya.

In August 2010, the police investigated the Harpaz Document affair with admirable professionalism. The picture that emerged in the view of the investigators was clear: In the general staff and its milieu, there was an attempt to trip up the Defense Minister. However the police were wary of bringing the process to fruition. At that stage, the role of the attorney general was to instruct the police to continue with their investigation or to transfer the investigation of the truth to another investigative body. The attorney general did not do either. Despite the fact that he was aware of Pardo's grave testimony he preferred not to open this Pandora's box and locked it up instead.

Some 27 years go, then-attorney general Yitzhak Zamir and then-deputy state prosecutor Dorit Beinisch saved Israeli democracy by acting with courage and integrity in the Bus 300 Affair. (The two insisted that the Shin Bet security service come clean in its cover-up of the execution of two Palestinian bus hijackers captured alive.)

In the past 17 months, Yehuda Weinstein has turned his back on Israeli democracy by dealing with the Ashkenazi affair with amazing cowardice. The attorney general did not quell the general's rebellion nor did he stem the generals' revolt; instead he covered it up.

This is not a personal matter. In any properly run country, an attempt by a military echelon to coerce a civilian echelon would be met with an iron fist. In any properly run country, a chief of staff who threatened a defense minister with war would be fired on the spot. However Israel is not a properly run country. There is no orderly legal and moral system but rather an alignment of clans. Since the rebellious general is a member of the correct clan and his victims are members of the wrong clan, the revolt was whitewashed.

Most of the media reported-didn't-report the affair in a shameful fashion. The police investigated-didn't-investigate the affair in a strange manner. The attorney general was determined not to fulfill his role. A general failure of the systems led to Israel not dealing with the general's revolt like an enlightened country. The carcass is continuing to rot and to give off a bad stench.

Now the matter is awaiting the attention of the state comptroller. The seventh comptroller has stacked up several great and courageous deeds to his credit during his term of office. But what he is required to do now is the most important and courageous of them all. In a place where there is no man, only Micha Lindenstrauss can be a man. In a place where all the Israeli systems have failed, only the system of the state comptroller can try to correct things. What is at stake here is not the personal future of businessman Gabi Ashkenazi. What is at stake is the honesty of the army, the integrity of the legal system and the preservation of Israel as a democracy.

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