The State Comptroller is to begin an investigation next week into former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gabi Ashkenazi's involvement in the so-called Harpaz affair, Channel One military analyst Yoav Limor reported Tuesday night. But an official from the State Comptroller's office told Israel Hayom Tuesday evening that the office was “unaware that Ashkenazi had been summoned for questioning next Sunday.”
The case, which emerged in August 2010, centers on the suspected involvement of Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz in the forgery of the “Galant document,” which outlined plans to sully the reputations of senior Israeli Defense Forces officers. The purpose of the forged document was to make it seem that Yoav Galant, then a candidate for chief of general staff, had hired a public relations firm to besmirch the other candidates.
During questioning by police, Harpaz admitted to forging the Galant document, but said he had done so alone. In January, following a hearing, the state prosecution informed Harpaz of its intention to indict him on charges of forgery under extreme circumstances and the use of a forged document.
The decision to investigate Ashkenazi, who will soon return to Israel from the U.S. where he has been pursuing continued education opportunities, was reportedly made before Channel One TV reporter Ayala Hasson recently delivered a damning report about the relationship between Harpaz and Ashenkanzi's wife, Ronit.
According to Hasson, Ronit Ashkenazi and Harpaz were “extremely close” and exchanged 1,500 text messages. Hasson also said that Harpaz and Ashkenazi had discussed the appointments of senior IDF officers.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said that even before Hasson's report, his investigation into the Harpaz affair would focus on four points: contact between the chief of staff's office and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office, the process of appointing the chief of staff, ties between Harpaz and senior officers in the IDF, and non-criminal matters related to the “Galant document.”
Lindenstrauss said on Monday that his office was also planning to review Hasson's findings.
The investigation will also look into the propriety of the work done by the police and state prosecutor on the case, after recent revelations raised doubts about the direction they were taking.
Meanwhile, Homefront Defense Minister Matan Vilnai on Tuesday commented on the affair during a tour of the south, saying, “Now we understand why the defense minister refused to extend Ashkenazi's term as chief of staff. There was a complex process against Galant, initiated by IDF officers whom he, apparently, did not know wanted to keep him from becoming chief of staff. Now it turns out that they had maintained close ties all along. This is a scandal all in itself and it is now being investigated.”
“There was a phenomenon here that surprised even me,” Vilnai added. “There was a system in place, and it was used to try to mislead those who make decisions. The former chief of staff was speaking out of both sides of his mouth -- he said one thing but knew something else. These are very serious revelations, and I suppose that because now there is an investigation, they will be dealt with. This explains why Barak said he would not allow these things to continue. Now the public understands it more and more.”