Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz came down hard on Col. Erez Weiner on Monday, criticizing him for his role in the Harpaz affair and stating that "lines had been crossed."
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Gantz met Monday with senior officers at the Glilot military base for what was intended as a follow-up on Operation Pillar of Defense. Instead he used the opportunity to level criticism at Weiner, the aide to former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
In a report released Sunday by the state comptroller, Weiner is accused of having inappropriate ties with Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz, the forger of the so-called "Harpaz document," which was designed to foil the appointment of Yoav Galant as chief of staff.
"Often, commanding authority was exploited by people who took advantage of information," Gantz said. "Often, good loyal action actually caused lines to be crossed. I cannot accept such behavior, as much as I appreciate these people – and I do."
"This is a sad day for the IDF, the State of Israel, the citizens and all those involved in the affair," Gantz added.
Gantz said he intends to deal with the matter "so things won't remain up in the air." Two years ago he said the Harpaz affair was tainted with "the odor of a corpse in the General Command." Yesterday he added: "I coined the 'corpse' phrase, and I tell you that after two years as chief of staff I understand that the corpse is dry. If we must clear out some more bones and clean the yard, then we will."
Gantz was likely hinting that he would take further steps against Weiner and other officers involved in the scandal, which erupted during the appointment of Ashkenazi's successor as IDF chief of staff. Last August, when Gantz decided not to appoint Weiner as chief education officer, an IDF spokesman explained that "until the comptroller's report is complete Col. Weiner will compete for another post as brigadier general."
On Monday, Gantz told battalion commanders that he would "take the steps expected of me as commander, and I expect you to deal with the matter as well."
In addition to criticizing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Ashkenazi in the affair, the comptroller's report reveals relationships between senior officers serving in the IDF's operations directorate and former officers of the unit, including Harpaz. According to the comptroller, senior officers often consulted with Harpaz because they believed he was close to Ashkenazi, and without checking his security classification.
"The report also mentioned the conduct at various units," Gantz said Monday. "The former and present directors of Military Intelligence have already dealt with the issue, and most of the conclusions are already behind us."
Gantz noted that two committees have been established to deal with the issue, one headed by reserve Maj. Gen Yom Tov Samia, and the other by Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, head of the IDF's technology and logistics department.
"I believe that we shall know how to fulfill our roles while being careful to avoid the benefits of authority and the power it offers, and if we behave respectfully and avoid unfounded gossip, then we will succeed. This affair should never reoccur, not in the military-civilian model, nor between military bodies."