Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday instructed police to open a criminal investigation against former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his assistant Col. (res.) Erez Weiner in the so-called Harpaz affair.
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Weinstein said he was convinced there was a reasonable basis for the suspicions raised by the Military Police probe against Ashkenazi. The former IDF chief’s media adviser said Ashkenazi "was notified of the expansion of the Harpaz affair investigation. He will cooperate fully, as always, and hopes the truth will finally come to light."
The Harpaz affair is named for a forged document that surfaced in 2010, purporting to detail plans made by former Defense Minister Ehud Barak's associates to launch a mudslinging campaign against Ashkenazi. The ensuing police investigation identified the counterfeiter as Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz, a reserve officer and associate of Ashkenazi's.
In January the Military Police opened an investigation into the affair and the possible involvement of Ashkenazi and Weiner.
The attorney general said in a statement that he decided to expand the investigation because "there is a reasonable basis for the suspicions and in view of the public interest to reach the truth in the affair." Weinstein said he reached this conclusion after examining the findings in the Military Police’s probe.
Weinstein also received the opinion of the military advocate general, Maj. Gen. Dan Efroni.
Apparently, the MIlitary Police’s conclusions raise the suspicion that Ashkenazi and Weiner committed offenses more serious than "conduct unbecoming an officer," a breach of the military justice code. The new investigation, to be conducted by the Israel Police, will focus on alleged criminal offenses such as breach of trust, sources in the State Prosecutor's Office said.
Police change view of case
The sources said police had initially objected to investigating the affair, but the new evidence changed the picture.
The Military Police obtained documents and recordings suggesting that Ashkenazi may have been involved much more deeply than previously thought in collecting material against Barak, the sources said.
Justice Ministry officials said the police will investigate the suspicion, among others, that Ashkenazi kept Harpaz’s forged document in his office. They said the investigation will not be limited to Ashkenazi and Weiner alone, but that other people in the defense establishment are expected to be questioned, including Barak.
The State Prosecutor’s Office has prepared an indictment against Harpaz, but has not submitted it. The Justice Ministry said a final decision on the part played by Harpaz in the affair “will be delayed until there is progress in the investigation,” and that “when the investigation is complete, it will be decided whether to press charges against any of those involved.”
In 2010, Harpaz confessed to police that he had forged a document in a bid to keep Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant from being appointed Ashkenazi’s successor as chief of staff. According to the draft state comptroller's report, released in March 2012 by then-Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, Weiner coordinated moves with Harpaz.
Lindenstrauss gave the attorney general a letter citing evidence of alleged criminal acts on Ashkenazi and Weiner's part, and wrote that the Military Police should investigate the affair. He noted the probe could reach the civilian authorities. Officials in the Attorney General’s Office thought at the time that there was not enough evidence for an Israel Police investigation, and ordered the military investigation.
In January State Comptroller Joseph Shapira also began looking into the matter and concluded that Weiner compelled Harpaz to collect incriminating material against Barak, Galant and others, and that Ashkenazi had at least some knowledge about this.
The comptroller castigated Barak's conduct toward Ashkenazi, but stated that the flaws in the minister's acts could not justify the army brass' behavior toward the elected political leadership.