Senior Officials Call for Reopening Probe Into Whether Harpaz Acted Alone

Gabi Ashkenazi called the reports "manipulations and half truths," but nonetheless, the charges present a very sorry picture of what transpired at the Israel Defense Forces' General Headquarters a year or so ago.

The series of revelations made this weekend by Channel 1 reporter Ayala Hasson about the so-called Harpaz document affair have bolstered doubts surrounding the police investigation into the case last year. A number of officials told Haaretz that the probe into the affair would have to be reopened.

Hasson reported on links between Ronit Ashkenazi, wife of then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and Lt. Col. (Res. ) Boaz Harpaz. Ronit Ashkenazi allegedly worked as a mediator between Harpaz and residents of Moshav Amikam, the home of Mag. Gen. Yoav Galant, who was contending for the IDF's top spot.

Gabi and Ronit Ashkenazi - IDF Spokesman’s Office - 05092011
IDF Spokesman’s Office

Gabi Ashkenazi called the reports "manipulations and half truths," but nonetheless, the charges present a very sorry picture of what transpired at the Israel Defense Forces' General Headquarters a year or so ago - the exchange of some 1,500 text messages between Ashkenazi's wife and Harpaz; the alleged involvement of Harpaz and Ronit Ashkenazi in the collection of information on Galant's building violations; and what could be construed as an attempt to coordinate positions after the affair was exposed.

At the heart of the Harpaz affair, which is still under investigation by the state comptroller, is the document. Harpaz has admitted to forging the document, which was supposed to have appeared to be an attempt to crown Galant as chief of staff, in coordination with associates of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

But the hasty investigation conducted by the police in August last year chose to view the document as being detached from the events going on around it. The moment Harpaz admitted to the forgery, the police quickly announced that he had acted on his own and that senior defense establishment figures were not suspected of involvement in the crime.

But the story is far more complex, and Hasson's information about the text messages alludes to this: Gabi Ashkenazi defined his relationship with Harpaz as a superficial acquaintanceship, but Harpaz's intense ties with Ronit Ashkenazi, with or without her husband's knowledge, could point to something more than this - particularly in light of the fact that some of the content of the messages that were exposed by Hasson deals directly with the battle for the post of chief of staff.

If her revelations are true, then the text messages are indeed very relevant to the heart of the matter. So why weren't all the text messages opened and transcribed during the course of the investigation?

According to a Haaretz inquiry, the law enforcement authorities, including the Shin Bet security service, do not have the capability to decode the content of text messages if there was no wire-tap on the line to begin with. All that can be done in the absence of a wire-tap is to determine that messages or calls were made from one mobile phone to another on a specific date and at a specific time.

The messages the police did manage to open and transcribe were only those that Harpaz received or sent after being marked as a suspect and having his phone tapped.

The real question that needs to be asked is: Why didn't the police delve deeper to ascertain the nature of the relationship between the Ashkenazis and Harpaz? It appears that the police, with the backing of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, were too hasty in coming to the conclusion that Harpaz had acted entirely on his own, doing so only out of a desire to wrap up the investigation and get rid of a hot potato.

The investigation was partial, and ignored the wider connection: Was Harpaz acting on behalf of someone? Are there no grounds for suspicion that certain elements tried to illegally extend Ashkenazi's term in office for a fifth year, to trip up Galant's appointment, and even to bring about Barak's ousting from the Defense Ministry?

A number of senior defense establishment officials told Haaretz Sunday that the police investigation would have to be reopened. The Movement for Quality Government in Israel published similar sentiments. And one can also hazard a guess that at least some of the information exposed by Channel 1 is based on sources from within the police who are not comfortable with the way the investigation was conducted.

The police's partial investigation may also undermine the quality of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' draft report on the affair that is due for release at the end of the month. If the police determine that contrary to common sense, Harpaz had no accomplices, can the comptroller contradict this? It is no coincidence that the comptroller has taken an interest of late in the records of calls between the offices of Ashkenazi and former Police Chief David Cohen while the inquiry was being conducted in August last year.