Head to Head With Journalist Amnon Abramovich

Do you intend to cooperate with police investigators?

The origins of the affair surrounding the so-called Galant document are not difficult to trace. The story unfolded during the most recent broadcast of Channel Two's Friday news program "Ulpan Shishi," when two correspondents - Amnon Abramovich and Roni Daniel - sat shoulder-to-shoulder, across from program anchor Yair Lapid.

Amnon Abramovich
Dan Keinan

Abramovich conducted the discussion, presenting a document said to feature a strategic plan devised by the consulting firm run by Eyal Arad and Lior Horev. According to the document, the plan's objective - to secure GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant's appointment as the next IDF chief of staff - is to be attained by outmaneuvering Galant's rivals and besmirching the current army chief.

The incident has since been followed by vehement denials of the document's authenticity. It was determined that an investigation of the document would be launched, and Abramovich has been asked repeatedly to present the document in his possession. Channel Two has claimed that handing over the document would compromise the identity of the journalistic source.

Amnon Abramovich, do you intend to cooperate with police investigators?

Revealing the source is not a viable option. To the best of my knowledge, the police inquiry is focused on who wrote the document, and is not concerned with revealing the source.

Have you been summoned for questioning or asked to present the document?

The [Channel 2] news company has been asked to relay the document and the request is being discussed right now in the courts. I will likely be asked to provide testimony, but no date for this has been set. I imagine it will be set in the next several days.

Many believe that, in this instance, the public's right to know outweighs the norms of journalistic integrity.

The confidentiality of a source is a fundamental pillar of journalism. It is clear why some would be interested in revealing the identities of those who wrote the document. The subject intrigues me, just as it piques the curiosity of many people. Yet public interest and personal curiosity are not enough to nullify a fundamental pillar, such as the confidentiality of a source.

Since the document's existence was revealed, many have claimed that it's a forgery. What is happening behind the scenes right now at the news company?

This issue is being dealt with in a professional, balanced and proportionate way. We might recall that one of the television channels once heard a rumor about the Winograd Report, relating to the Second Lebanon War, and on the basis of that put out a special broadcast.

In our case, last Friday, we didn't change the format of the news broadcast in the slightest. In the opening, Roni Daniel and myself presented the document in a two-minute segment. We subsequently discussed the document in a panel for a normal length of time. The only change occurred at the end of the program, when, as a result of the numerous responses, we broadcast a short summary.

[Channel 2] CEO Avi Weiss, "Ulpan Shishi" editor Golan Yochpaz, legal adviser Barak Bar-Shalom, Daniel and myself were all involved in making decisions related to publishing the document, and the manner in which its existence was revealed. I think the issue was presented in the most responsible and moderate fashion.

At the beginning of the week, you sounded convinced of the document's authenticity. Do you still believe it is real?

If the document is legitimate, it does not reflect a major criminal offense. Assuming it is authentic, it is a legal position paper - albeit one that is malicious and contemptible toward certain people - but legal and legitimate. If the document is forged, then we are looking at a serious criminal act.

We presented these two possibilities, but in recent days I have spotted, here and there, a misunderstanding. It does not surprise me that journalists have a tendency to know a lot and understand very little. The document's contents are real. It's possible that the logo, or the stationery paper, were forged. The police inquiry is intended to reach a determination on that. But with regard to the document itself, there is no doubt that it was written by a person well informed and highly involved in the security framework, as well as by a media consultant. The content is up-to-date, and the style and formulations are characteristic of media consultants.

I think the libel concocted years ago against Dan Shomron, on the eve of his appointment as IDF chief of staff, was a much graver matter than this. There are journalists, some of them veteran journalists, who believe the present case is worse than what preceded Shomron's appointment. Of the many articles I've read, those that have enlightened me and which adhered to my understanding of the affair, were written by Amir Oren and Yossi Sarid in your newspaper.

The uproar, the police involvement, your summons for questioning - does this remind you of any previous affairs? Are there echoes, for instance, of the case in which Shin Bet agent Avishai Raviv (code-named "Champagne" ) was exposed, for which you were questioned?

I've been questioned by the police more than once, and I've made many visits to the censor. I'm familiar with all of this. The police have to do their work, and a journalist has to deal with his profession. These two entities have to, and will continue to, coexist.

There's no argument about the fact that, from your perspective, this is an achievement. Where do you rank this scoop in your career?

In over three decades of journalistic work, I've published dozens, if not hundreds, exclusive, significant reports. I view this event as another news item. I don't know how to catalogue it. I certainly think it is an important story, but I lack the ability to rank its importance on a scale of reports.

However this story turns out, there's no doubt it exposes a faulty ethos and subculture within the security establishment's top echelon. This woeful subculture and rotten ethos have been revealed. I think this exposure will influence various future campaigns - from Knesset elections to internal party primaries, to elections for lawyers' bar associations and accountants' associations. This revelation, I hope, will reduce the tendency to promote negative, mudslinging campaigns in the future.

Has the media world, as you have known it, changed?

The state has changed, its society has changed, public discourse has changed, and so has the media. To discuss such changes, we'd need much more space than this interview allows.