Focus on Harpaz Affair

Was the forging of the document and the leaks to Channel 2 the result of private initiatives, or was it inspired by the commander's spirit?

The Harpaz Document affair, which cast a shadow over the race for the post of chief of staff and dominated headlines during the summer, has slipped out of the media spotlight during the past month. However, the affair continues to percolate under the surface, much after the appointment of Yoav Galant as chief of staff was confirmed by the cabinet.

A confrontation is now taking place between two camps: that of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and that of the outgoing chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi. Each camp focuses on a different legal deliberation and investigation. Both sides, who are behaving according to protocol, have not given up the fight. Ashkenazi's supporters still hope that the Supreme Court will overturn the Galant appointment and extend Ashkenazi's tenure, and that political circumstances will force Barak to resign. As for the Defense Minister, he believes that a detailed examination of the document affair will completely expose the flawed conduct of Ashkenazi's bureau.

The State is expected to file its response at the High Court of Justice to a petition by the environmentalists against the Galant appointment. The petition was based on a Ma'ariv investigative report over the alleged takeover by the chief-of-staff-designate over property that does not belong to him in the moshav where he lives. The chances that the court will intervene in this issue, at such a late stage, appear to be slim. But the Greens have another claim, which appears to be much more powerful. They argue that the process by which the suspicions were examined at the Turkel Committee for Senior Appointments (before the Galant appointment was brought to the cabinet for approval ), was superficial and unsatisfactory. If the Justices take note of this issue, there may be implications.

On the other hand, the testimonies taken by police investigating the document affair, which Lt. Colonel (res. ) Boaz Harpaz admitted to have forged, expose a frightening side of the General Staff. Harpaz, who was discharged under circumstances that were less than laudable, has since accumulated tremendous power: as a broker of information, as someone with influence in appointments (and in delaying them ), as one who freely operates in areas where security clearance is required, and who enjoys direct access to senior staff. In military lore, officers who specialize in hallway politics are termed "mixers." A mixer like Harpaz is one of a kind. The investigation has exposed a deep link between Ashkenazi and his circle. There are suspicions that the chief of staff was not entirely forthcoming when he told his generals and the media that his relationship with Harpaz was superficial.

Was the forging of the document and the leaks to Channel 2 the result of private initiatives, or was it inspired by the commander's spirit? Only the police knows, and if it does not know, then the truth should be uncovered by a proper authority like the state comptroller. The problem is that, to date, the conduct of the police is puzzling. Indeed, the investigators tracked down the suspect quickly. However, immediately after the police announced that Harpaz had acted alone, in an unusual move it publicly acquitted the senior staff and their aides of any involvement in the forgery. Even though the investigation has essentially come to an end, two months have passed during which the chief of police and the attorney general have kept silent and avoided making any decisions. The sense of urgency which characterized the start of the investigation passed.

The police focused on the investigation of the forgery. The case has a series of ethical and security aspects, whose examination is being delayed so long as the Attorney General did not make a decision. Could it be that someone in law enforcement is interested in making the completion of the investigation unimportant? Are the police and the prosecution concerned that further probes into the affair will open a Pandora's box that will undermine the national ethos, and the image of the IDF? The interest of the public is precisely the opposite. Only an exhaustive investigation by the State Comptroller can partially restore trust in the political and military leadership. The delaying tactics are suspicious.