If You Want to Investigate – Investigate

Ido Baum
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Ido Baum

The decision by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to instruct Metzah, the Military Police investigation department, to open an investigation against former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his aide Erez Weiner in the Harpaz case does not reopen the affair. It's a decision designed to close the affair.

First of all, Metzah is not authorized to investigate civilians. Metzah must request assistance from the "blue" police in order to investigate Boaz Harpaz or other civilians whose names have been linked to the affair (which involved a possible attempt to influence the selection of the chief of staff, through a forged document).

Weinstein would have been spared this unnecessary bureaucracy had the investigation been transferred to the police, but the attorney general restricted the investigation to the military (and not civil) offense of "conduct unbecoming an officer," which is under the authority of Metzah.

To paraphrase one of the classic lines from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," Weinstein should be told: If you want to investigate, investigate. Don't impose restrictions. If you don't want to investigate, close the case. Why tie the hands of the investigators ahead of time?

Former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, who wrote the report on the Harpaz document, recommended investigating alleged crimes of breach of faith, interfering with an investigation and serious crimes of corruption, such as bribery and abetting bribery. The comptroller's report clearly indicates that the Harpaz affair does not include only the gathering of information in the chief of staff's office about then- Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Lindenstrauss presumably received evidence of corruption in army appointments, business connections that were tied to the internal politics in the IDF leadership, and other disruptive activities. The comptroller believed that these issues require a criminal investigation to be conducted by the police, because it also involved civilians. The comptroller thought that the main thrust of the investigation should focus on figures outside the army, who were beyond the authority of the comptroller and also out of the reach of Metzah.

Although Weinstein did not reject an expansion of the investigation if Metzah discovers additional crimes, his decision greatly reduces the chances of such a development. An investigation of the crime of conduct unbecoming an officer focuses on the suspect himself, and not on his associates. If the investigators were told to investigate a single crime, they won't ask about other crimes at all. Nor do Metzah investigators specialize in crimes of public corruption.

A vigorous investigative dynamic could prevent the investigation from sinking, but there is another difficulty. Harpaz is the only one against whom it was decided to file an indictment in the affair. The indictment is being delayed for now. Harpaz is a potential state's witness, but neither Metzah nor the Military Advocate General who is accompanying the investigation have the authority to offer him a plea bargain. If anyone even bothers to reinvestigate Harpaz and offer him a plea bargain, it will entail a complex procedure – one that could have been avoided had the attorney general ordered a conventional investigation.

If the investigators are in need of another negative shot of encouragement, Weinstein made it clear that after the investigation he will also take into consideration the conclusion of Ashkenazi's military service and that of his assistant. In short, don't make too much of an effort.

In one of the most serious corruption affairs in recent years, the director of the Tax Authority, Jackie Matza, was convicted of allowing two private citizens with a financial interest to present themselves to senior Tax Authority officials as people influencing his decisions, and to derive benefits from that. Matza was sentenced to a year in prison for breach of faith and abetting bribery.

There is need for an exhaustive investigation in order to negate the possibility that there was corruption of this type in the IDF. For example, in his report the comptroller notes that a colonel in Military Intelligence, a unit commander, consulted with Harpaz before the meeting with Ashkenazi, "in light of the (commander's) understanding that Harpaz has a good relationship with the chief of staff."

Did Ashkenazi know about and allow such conduct? Those are the suspicions that Weinstein must examine, but the investigation that he has ordered does not attest to an effort to find out the truth.

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