Investigating Himself

If it is necessary to examine an injustice of discrimination or abuse, there is no better candidate that Maj. Gen. (res.) Brik, commissioner for soldiers' complaints at the Defense Ministry.

The signature reflects steadfast, determined honesty: all of one line, without any diversions, with the "kuf" at the end serving both Yitzhak and Brik. If it is necessary to examine an injustice of discrimination or abuse, there is no better candidate that Maj. Gen. (res.) Brik, commissioner for soldiers' complaints at the Defense Ministry.

Brik is a rare military combination of discipline and compassion, along with personal experience as a tank fighter and a division commander. In the Israel Defense Forces he is taken seriously, and not only because of his battle hardened experience which he passes on to the generation that does not know large scale wars.

Three out of five complaints that make it to him are found to be justified; Brik demands accountability also from the boss of the commander involved.

But Brik is not Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Brik works for Barak. He is his appointment, approved by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The committee did not authorize Barak to assign additional duties to Brik, certainly not to charge him with the task of serving as the arbitrator on behalf of one side in the dispute between the defense minister and the chief of staff, both exempt by law from the probes of the IDF ombudsman.

One of Barak's final moves as chief of staff was making Brik a major general, bringing him back to the Defense Ministry as ombudsman, following a decade as a civilian.

Barak is to Brik what Moshe Dayan was to the first ombudsman he appointed, Haim Laskov. Laskov was known for his honesty, and the at the time Dayan too, as chief of staff, was not interested in him because of his honesty, but for his appointment in the Agranat Commission, which did not hold Dayan, then a defense minister, responsible in the Yom Kippur War fiasco.

The fact that Laskov was a subordinate of Dayan at the time, and the responsibility was passed on to then-chief of staff David Elazar, was improper and undermined the semblance of justice.

During his last annual report Brik praised his late predecessor, Brig. Gen. (res.) Avner Barazani. If Brik dives into the forged document affair on Barak's orders, he will run into the puzzling involvement of Barazani, who as ombudsman served as arbitrator in the clash between Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz and the IDF, which threw Harpaz out of the army without pension. Barazani recommended bringing Harpaz back to the army symbolically, and to count the years since his dismissal as leave without pay. What will Brik say about Barazani now?

The deterioration in the relations between Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi during the past year, initiated by Barak, was the fertile ground on which Harpaz's document grew. From a professional point of view, Barak was right last year in wanting to dictate who the deputy chief of staff - the third for Ashkenazi - would be, and was wrong to give in. From that point on Ashkenazi became the victim in a war that Barak declared on him in order to display his superiority and harm his future political rival.

Thus Barak gained a bitter rival, like the rival that chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak became to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The claim of Lt. Gen. (res.) Barak of a conspiracy by active and reservist officers against him is a ridiculous joke. His cerebral image hides irrationality and of late also hysteria, which surrounds the probe of his private business affairs by the State Comptroller's Office. The concerned wait for its results could explain the applause that Barak had for the comptroller's report, which had reservations about his behavior in the appointment of generals (including the granting of the rank of major general for the military secretary of the prime minister and the year of failing to appoint a coordinator of government activities in the territories).

Indeed, it is necessary to examine the continuing deterioration in relations between Barak and Ashkenazi. The Harpaz document was only a symptom of the disease. The discovery of the forger, according to the announcement of the investigators and intelligence, did not heal the rift, and continues to rot the body of the army.

The investigation can be carried out in different ways, by the State Comptroller or an external committee. The State Attorney's Office, which received the case with a recommendation for an indictment against Harpaz alone, is still open to sending it back and completing the investigation.

The worst option possible is to subordinate the investigator to one of the two rivals. The Military Attorney General and the president of the appeals court, generals in active service, would have refused if Ashkenazi appointed them; this is what Brik should do as well with Barak's appointment.