Bill Would Give Watchdog More Time to Complete Harpaz Probe

Cabinet committee votes for bill, which would allow state comptroller to release his final report after the end of his term on July 3.

A proposed bill would allow outgoing State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to release his final report on the controversial Harpaz affair after his term ends on July 3.

If approved, this would give Lindenstrauss more time to go through the voluminous amounts of material he is expected to receive today from former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his ex-aide, Col. Erez Weiner.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation adopted the bill on Sunday. However, the Knesset's legal counsel sharply criticized the proposal, saying that its timing stirs suspicions of political bias and partisan attempts to influence state procedures.

Replies requested

The comptroller's report is expected to be extremely critical of Ashkenazi. According to a draft that was presented to involved parties in March, investigators believe that Weiner coordinated communications with Lt. Col. (res ) Boaz Harpaz. Harpaz is suspected of forging a document designed to undermine Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant's efforts to succeed Ashkenazi as IDF chief of staff last year.

Weiner had asked the High Court to force Lindenstrauss to hand over all testimony and materials used to substantiate the report's conclusions about Weiner (and indirectly, about Ashkenazi ). The court ruled that the comptroller must hand over all relevant documents, and that Ashkenazi and Weiner must submit replies to the report by June 25.

Lindenstrauss said the demand was merely a stalling tactic that Ashkenazi's camp hoped would prevent the comptroller from releasing the report during his term. The assumption was that by the time the new comptroller, Yosef Shapira, released the report, interest in it will have waned, accused Lindenstrauss.

Weiner and Ashkenazi deny this.

Ashkenazi has been summoned to a hearing with Lindenstrauss on Wednesday, and Weiner is expected to receive such a summons as well. Given this busy timetable, it seems unlikely that Lindenstrauss will manage to finish his report before the end of his term. The proposed bill allows a retired comptroller to submit a report he started before the end of his term, as long as he submitted a draft report more than three months before he left office. He would have up to three months after his term ends to submit a final report.

If passed, the law would be considered a victory for Ashkenazi's political enemy, Defense Minister Ehud Barak.