Israel's AG Is Entangled in a Web of Intrigue

The comptroller's examination of the Barak-Ashkenazi affair was flawed on several accounts - instead of focusing on a systemic analysis of the warped process, the comptroller was tempted to deal with unsubstantiated trifles that proved nothing.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has no pretensions of being a workaholic. He doesn't live in his office, like his predecessor Menachem Mazuz. And he may no longer be a top attorney, selecting his cases on the basis of quality over quantity, but when an explosive case comes along that compels him to decide one way or the other, he shakes off his torpor and rules: we'll see; later; it needs scrutinizing; the explosive charge will wear off; or something will come up, or down, or whatever.

Take the Avigdor Lieberman case, for example. If the indictment against the foreign minister threatens to topple the government of the A-G's friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, drafting it will drag on and on until the government falls for some other, political reason of Netanyahu's choosing.

Weinstein prefers to direct the performances he stars in himself. He does not welcome efforts to cast him in a role in someone else's play. He likes it least of all when he suspects State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss of trying to use him to disentangle himself from the web of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's relations with former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. This web has been dubbed the "Harpaz affair," although Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz's part in it is merely the symptom - or at the most the seizure - rather than the paralyzing disease.

Lindenstrauss dribbled and dribbled without kicking toward goal, until he looked at the clock and saw in alarm that his time was up and the result was still zero.

The draft report - which had been distributed to the report's subjects and, in fact, also to the public, together with the investigation material - has already contaminated the evidence and sterilized any police procedure, apart from clearing up the cassettes' loss in Barak's office. After all this, suddenly the comptroller dials 100 - a transparent ruse that raised derisive grins in conversations among senior law enforcement officials. Are we so short of cases, they may as well have said, are our investigators so idle, that we should send a truck to load Lindenstrauss' material and dig into it for months and years, only to decide in the end what is a foregone conclusion?

Lindenstrauss is Harpaz' last victim - the last in a line of many experienced people who have fallen into his trap over the years. Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich, head of the Police Investigations Unit, believed at their first meeting that Harpaz was only the importer - not the manufacturer - of the document that had wandered into Ashkenazi's office, and from there to the media.

But Harpaz, even 21 months after the police have completed their investigation and recommended charging him with forgery, has not been put on trial yet, and certainly not convicted. The State Prosecution Office erred in waiting for the comptroller to end his probe into the affair. Now Lindenstrauss wants the delay in submitting his - that is, his successor's report - to be excused with waiting for a new police investigation, and perhaps so on and so forth until the end of time.

Without a final report, the draft threatening to harm many intelligence officers - including the IDF's cyber-warfare commander - just because they ever touched Harpaz, has no binding status. But how can they be denounced post-factum for being led astray, when even after a year and a half of investigations and probes, there is no court ruling blemishing Harpaz?

The comptroller's examination of the Barak-Ashkenazi affair was flawed on several accounts. Instead of focusing on a systemic analysis of the warped process, which led - after pressure from Barak - to Yoav Galant's abortive appointment as chief of staff, the comptroller was tempted to deal with unsubstantiated trifles that proved nothing.

In the controversy over the draft, he displayed a distressing lack of modesty and pertinence. The comptroller, who in previous years bravely fought the powers that be - especially then prime minister Ehud Olmert - is himself the power in this story. He is causing Col. Erez Weiner, a minor character in the affair, an injustice. [Weiner, Askenazi's former aide, allegedly received the document from Harpaz.] When he insisted on pushing Weiner into a corner, the latter retaliated with a counterattack, demanding justifiably to receive the material on which the comptroller's assumptions are based.

Lindenstrauss' overall balance is positive. It was good for the state to have such a comptroller in the last seven years. But the self-made labyrinth he has entered in this affair could cloud his achievements and damage the impact of the important reports he is to publish in the last two months of his term. Someone may yet be prompted by his lapses in the Harpaz story to try to put off these reports until after the Knesset elections.