IDF Chief: I Wasn't Aware of Galant Document Leak

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the General Staff yesterday that he was not involved in leaking the Galant document to the media and that its release had been done without his knowledge.

Meanwhile, the appointment of GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as chief of staff is expected to be approved by the committee headed by Jacob Turkel for senior appointments, ahead of its approval by the cabinet.

Ashkenazi offered his version of events for the first time in public yesterday, related to the affair involving a forged document that came to characterize the selection process for his successor as chief of staff.

Ashkenazi told his colleagues at the General Staff that he had met the prime suspect in the forgery, Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz, when he served as an officer in Military Intelligence. The chief of staff later testified on behalf of Harpaz when he was accused of violations that resulted in his removal from active military service.

However, Ashkenazi stressed that he and Harpaz were not close and that they had no business ties, contrary to reports in the press that he had assisted Harpaz in a security-related business venture in Italy.

Ashkenazi said Harpaz had contacted him with information about alleged external interference in the selection process for the next IDF chief of staff, and had referred him to his aide, Col. Erez Weiner.

In April, Harpaz apparently handed Weiner the forged document, which the colonel photocopied and returned. Weiner is said to have then shown the document to Ashkenazi, who told his deputy, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, and GOC Northern Command about the document after they complained to him about Galant's conduct in the race for army chief.

According to Ashkenazi, he did not file a complaint with the military advocate general or attorney general about the document in an effort to preserve the "honor of the IDF and a wish to preserve the confidence of the people in [the army]."

Ashkenazi says his aide, Weiner, consulted with other officers without his knowledge, including Col. (res. ) Gabi Siboni, who then leaked the document to the media without his consent.

The chief of staff turned to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and informed him about the document in his possession, but only after the story broke in the media and a police investigation had been initiated.

At the start of yesterday's session, Ashkenazi congratulated Galant for his selection as the next chief of staff and promised the full cooperation of all IDF officers when he undergoes all the necessary briefings ahead of assuming his post.

"We have another six months ahead of us, with a lot of cooperative work, full of security challenges," Ashkenazi told the General Staff. "Officers and soldiers under our command turn to us, and with them the citizens of Israel. All of them rely on the fact that we'll be able to provide them with security."