Special Panel to Probe Chief Military Defender's Office

Military defenders have come under fire because of their role in the Harpaz affair on influencing the selection of the next chief of staff.

A special committee will scrutinize the office of the IDF's chief military defender due to criticism by former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. Military defenders have come under fire because of their role in the Harpaz affair on influencing the selection of the next chief of staff.

Lindenstrauss accused Col. Erez Weiner, an aide to former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, of collecting incriminating information about Defense Minister Ehud Barak, together with Lt. Col Boaz Harpaz.

Weiner, who is trying to clear his name, is represented by Chief Military Defender Udi Ben-Eliezer and other lawyers serving with Ben-Eliezer in their reserve service.

A panel to examine and define the powers of the chief military defender's office will be appointed by Military Advocate General Danny Efroni. The committee is to be headed by retired High Court Justice Dalia Dorner.

Weiner's legal battle heated up with High Court of Justice petitions in which Weiner and his lawyers crossed swords with Lindenstrauss.

Weiner's response to the comptroller's draft report, submitted over a month ago, includes harsh attacks on the credibility of the defense minister and complaints about Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yoav Galant. His chances of becoming chief of staff were meant to be compromised by the forged letter at the heart of the Harpaz affair.

Efroni was chief military defender until five years a ago. Administratively, that office answers to the military advocate general, but it enjoys great freedom.

Conflict arose over this freedom during the 1990s, when young military defenders petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Israel Defense Forces and military advocate general. One issue was conditions under which detainees were being held.

Controversy also arose following the Second Lebanon War, when military defenders represented some generals whose actions during the war were being investigated by the state comptroller and the Winograd Committee.

The Dorner panel is to examine issues such as which officers and soldiers in the career army, the reserves and the regular army are entitled to representation by the military defender and under what circumstances.

The committee will also be asked to define rules of conduct for military defenders in both the career army and the reserves. Such rules include ties with journalists. For example, the chief military defender's office enjoys the rare privilege of speaking to the press without the intervention of the IDF Spokesman's Office, as long as the purpose is to benefit a client, not for personal advancement.

Efroni has informed Ben-Eliezer of his intention to establish the committee, which has been endorsed by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

Micha Lindenstrauss Herzliya
Daniel Bar-On