A Comprehensive and Fair Report?

Harpaz report contained baffling gaps appear between the material examined and the material cited.

Former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss presumed, in the letter he attached last week to the almost-final draft of his report on the so-called Harpaz affair, "to lay before the public a comprehensive, egalitarian and fair document."

Comprehensive? Baffling gaps appear between the material examined and the material cited in the report, and between the facts and the conclusions. The comptroller's team fell in love with its initial assumptions, adding another set of egos to those of the adversaries mentioned in the report.

The police, in such cases, disbands the special investigation team and appoints a new one that is free of prejudice. In the Harpaz story - relating to an alleged plot to influence the appointment of the 20th Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff - this would not be practical, after two years and to avoid another two. Nevertheless, new State Comptroller Joseph Shapira must explain why the team - which, in the first draft of the report, played down Defense Minister Ehud Barak's role - took Barak's testimony in the presence of his own bureau chief Yoni Koren and was sloppy in locating basic material. The second draft brought no new data to explain the change in the team's attitude.

Egalitarian and fair - to whom? The report must not be unjust to the people it inspects, but it must not try to balance between those scrutinized in it, slapping one and pinching another so that all suffer equally. The public, whose support is vital in order to pressure the authorities to implement the report's recommendations (see the Carmel fire ), deserves the highest degree of fairness. The public is not an archive: Its judgment is required regarding current officials, not those who used to be in office or will be in the future.

The report on the Harpaz affair was written by a team of retired officers headed by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yaakov Or. The first Or Commission, headed by retired Justice Theodor Or, investigated clashes between Israeli Arabs and police in October 2000. When that commission finished its investigation, the man at the top of the list of people that were cautioned, Ehud Barak, was a rank-and-file citizen, albeit a prominent and wealthy one. He was no longer prime minister and defense minister, and not yet party leader and defense minister. The inquiry panel's severe conclusions regarding Barak had no practical significance.

The chapter dealing with Barak in the Or Commission report is full of the terms "omission," "his argument cannot be accepted," "no satisfactory explanation could be found," "no justification," "patronizing, unacceptable statement, as though evaluation experts cannot teach him anything new," "cannot shift responsibility and [deny] involvement after the fact," "[the argument] that he lacked sufficient means and tools to make the right decision is unacceptable," "ignored the issue," "his position is tainted with an internal lapse, creating a vicious circle and does not constitute reasonable behavior," "was not alert" and "didn't pay attention."

Even then, by a regrettable coincidence, a recording of important discussions was lost. The inquiry commission suspected, but found no proof "that evidence was concealed or deliberately suppressed." Nobody took the first Or report into account when Barak wanted to return to politics.

Now Barak is in and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is out. Barak has influence over the state's destiny; Ashkenazi does not.

When his cooling-off period is over, if he wants to be elected, Ashkenazi will have to convince that the report on the Harpaz affair was too harsh with him. At the moment, the second Or panel must supply the public with tools to judge the competence of Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the passive-negligent party in the affair.

Following their conduct in several IDF appointments and their contribution to the bad blood in the defense leadership, should Barak and Netanyahu be allowed to act without supervision in making other appointments; first and foremost the next deputy chief of staff - an appointment that will have a bearing on the appointment of the 21st chief of staff?

Four decades ago, in the General Staff's elite special-operations force Sayeret Matkal, Barak and Netanyahu took part in Operation Crate - to abduct five Syrian intelligence officers with the intention of facilitating the release of three Israeli airmen the Syrians had kidnapped. Two years ago they carried out a similar operation against the IDF under Ashkenazi's command. If the comptroller betrays his duty in the Harpaz affair, the IDF will have difficulty climbing out of the crate.