Israeli Attorney General Closes Second Probe Against Ehud Barak Within a Month

Sharon Pulwer
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Ehud Barak at the 49th Conference on Security Policy in Munich, February 3, 2013.Credit: Reuters
Sharon Pulwer

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein closed a probe into former Prime Minister Ehud Barak Thursday for the second time in a month.

The current probe, which never became a full-fledged criminal investigation, was opened due to a taped conversation between former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his then-office manager, Shula Zaken, in which Olmert said he heard that Barak had taken bribes while serving as a government official.

“The head of the Mossad came to me ... Everyone comes to me ... He [Barak] took millions and tens of millions in bribes; there’s not one arms deal Israel does,” Olmert is heard saying on the tape, which Zaken made without his knowledge. “Everyone talks about this.”

Zaken then asked where the money is, and Olmert replied, “He hides it ... in Switzerland or some law firm ... He transfers it to a company in which his name doesn’t appear.”

Police began looking into the allegation shortly after the tape was made public in November 2014. They took testimony from various people, first and foremost Olmert and Barak. But prosecutors who examined the collected evidence ultimately concluded that the allegation was unsubstantiated, and Weinstein concurred with this decision.

Barak’s lawyers, from the firm of Ram Caspi and Eitan Maoz, said their client “welcomed the attorney general’s decision to close the inquiry after failing to find enough evidence even to open a [criminal] investigation. Barak said from the start that this was gossip and smears with nothing to it, and immediately provided all the material needed for the inquiry process so it would be conducted as thoroughly as possible.”

This is the second investigation into Barak that Weinstein has closed in less than a month. In late December, the attorney general announced that he wouldn’t open a criminal investigation into Barak on account of statements made to the ghost writers of his autobiography that the writers later shared with Channel 2 television. The statements included classified information from meetings of the diplomatic-security cabinet on the possibility of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. Barak was serving as defense minister at the time.

In that case, Weinstein noted that the military censor had cleared those sections of the book for publication on the grounds that they didn’t significantly undermine national security, since they dealt with the views of various ministers rather than operational details. The censor’s decision would make it hard to justify criminal proceedings against Barak for divulging this information, he said.

Moreover, Weinstein noted, other senior officials who spoke with ghost writers or journalists about classified information obtained through their work hadn’t been subject to criminal investigation.

Nevertheless, he added, it’s improper for officials to divulge such information to ghost writers or journalists without permission.