IDF Urges State to Launch Criminal Probe of Ex Army Chief Over Harpaz Affair

The request by Brig. Gen. Danny Efroni, sent to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, marks the first time a criminal probe has been recommended to investigate a former chief of staff for a matter relating to his service in the IDF.

In an unprecedented move, the military advocate general has recommended that the attorney general open a criminal investigation into former Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's conduct in the so-called Harpaz affair, which involved alleged malfeasance in the process of selecting the next chief of staff to replace Ashkenazi.

The reques,t by Brig. Gen. Danny Efroni, sent to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, is the first time a criminal probe has been recommended to investigate a former chief of staff for a matter relating to his service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Channel 10 reported Sunday on the delivery of the letter to Weinstein. The letter's wording seems to indicate that if Weinstein doesn't look into Ashkenazi's conduct, the military advocate general will launch his own criminal investigation into Col. Erez Weiner, who was Ashkenazi's aide.

While Efroni no longer has any authority over Ashkenazi, who is now a civilian, he would be able to ask the Israel Police to summon him to a Military Police inquiry to investigate Weiner. The allegations against the two, as enumerated in Efroni's letter, include fraud, breach of trust and conduct not befitting an IDF officer.

Efroni's recommendation is based on the draft report on the Harpaz scandal by the state comptroller that was circulated in March.

The Harpaz affair broke in August 2010, when a document was uncovered that looked like a plan to ensure Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant would be named to replace Ashkenazi as chief of staff, as well as to thwart the other candidates and disgrace Ashkenazi. As it turned out, the document, which had been written on the letterhead of a leading public relations firm, had been forged by Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz, an Ashkenazi confidant, in an apparent attempt to dirty Galant's name.

In the draft report, then-State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued scathing criticism of Ashkenazi and Weiner. The allegations against Weiner were more specific: It was alleged that he had sent Harpaz to collect embarrassing information about Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the people around him. From the wording of the draft report, Lindenstrauss seemed to believe that Ashkenazi was aware of at least some of what was going on between Weiner and Harpaz.

Efroni notes in his letter that Lindenstrauss had asked Weinstein to open a new criminal investigation four months ago, based on the response that Harpaz had submitted to the draft report. Weinstein refused to accept Lindenstrauss' recommendation.

Meanwhile, the affair is getting more complicated. Weiner and Ashkenazi are fighting Lindenstrauss' conclusions in the report and are waging a legal and media battle to alter the final version of the report. Lindenstrauss, who retired last month, is expected to issue an "almost final" version of his report in mid-September, which will once again be circulated for comment to the parties involved. Only after those comments are received will the current comptroller, Yosef Shapira, release the final report.

Contrary to many media reports, it appears that the final report will also include sharp criticism of how Ashkenazi and his bureau handled the affair. As far as is known, Lindenstrauss is not planning to make any substantial changes to his conclusions regarding the heart of the affair - Ashkenazi's office using Harpaz as an agent, forging a document and using it against Barak and Galant.

Although Efroni's recommendation to Weinstein isn't binding, it does put the attorney general, who has resisted efforts to further investigate the case, in an uncomfortable minority position, in relation to other senior jurists.

Ashkenazi's media adviser, Itai Ben-Horin, said the Channel 10 report "is not known to us and seems strange."

In response to the Channel 10 report, the IDF spokesman said, "The military advocate general hasn't issued any instructions regarding a criminal investigation into the Harpaz affair. The issue is now the subject of an internal debate between the military prosecution and the attorney general. Naturally, we will not comment on internal issues before a final decision is made."