Col. Erez Weiner, who was heavily criticized by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira last week in his report on the Harpaz Affair, would not be allowed to stay in the Israel Defense Forces, Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz announced Sunday.
Weiner, who allegedly partook in an effort to besmirch Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2009-2010 while serving as the bureau chief of then IDF Chief Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, was censured by the state comptroller when the latter published his report, some two years after the controversial Harpaz Document first surfaced. The document alleged that Barak was engaged in a public relations campaign against Ashkenazi in order to deny him another year as chief of general staff and pave the way for a new commander for the IDF, then Southern Command GOC Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant (whose appointment was later nullified over alleged corruption). The document later turned out to have been forged. The police believe it was authored by Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz (res.), an Ashkenazi ally who allegedly handed the document to Weiner. The state comptroller faulted Weiner for flouting the IDF Spirit [which defines the organization's moral code and mission] and exercised poor judgement in interacting and cooperating with Harpaz's alleged efforts to smear Barak and top officials in the IDF.
Last Wednesday Gantz told Weiner that he would be denied a promotion and have his contract reviewed by the IDF Personnel Directorate ahead of a likely termination. Weiner, who initially considered fighting the decision, said he would not mount a legal challenge to stay in uniform. Several months ago Gantz said following Weiner's alleged involvement in the Harpaz Affair he would not be appointed as the chief of the Education and Youth Corps, a position he was all-but guaranteed before it broke out.
In a letter Weiner sent to Gantz on Sunday, the former wrote: "I believe you should have allowed me to explain to you, or anyone on your behalf, my version of events; I thought it would be more appropriate that you make the painful and consequential decision in my case only after you evaluated my claims with an open mind. But since you have made it clear you will not pursue such a path and in light of the fact that you are determined not to hear me out, while being bent on purging me from the ranks of the IDF through an expedited process ... I believe it would have been more appropriate if you had waited with your decision until my petition (to the High Court) was heard and ruled on."
Weiner went on to express his disappointment over being "denied the opportunity to explain how things truly unfolded" despite his longtime acquaintanceship with Gantz. "I think this [behavior] is rather strange, particularly in light of the fact that you were involved in this matter yourself throughout its entire period, as the deputy to Lt. Gen. (res.) Ashkenazi and as an one of the occupants on the floor we shared [in the General Staff headquarters]. We share the same experiences, some of them on a personal level," Weiner said.
Weiner said he believed Gantz's decision "smacks of foul play because on the one hand you chose to express your public views on the affair, including on its implications on me, but on the other hand you denied me with an opportunity to be interviewed [in the press] and to share my side of the story with the general public, and most importantly, with my colleagues and subordinates in the IDF." Weiner explained that despite his belief that Gantz made "a misguided and unjust" decision by dismissing him, he would not contest the move, claiming that the IDF was "near and dear to me."
"I am doing this with a heavy heart and with the feeling of a missed opportunity, because I was forced into retirement before I got the chance to tap my full potential in the IDF," Weiner lamented. Speaking about his time as Ashkenazi's aide, Weiner said, "At a certain point, that big and quiet ship, which had been engaged in the rehabilitation of the IDF [from the Second Lebanon War] and ongoing security needs involving operations close at home and far away, sustained brutal and deliberate blows that some of you [in the IDF] felt on a personal level ... some of you were with us by dispensing good advice and lending your ears. You were exposed to only part of the trials and tribulations that we were subject to, because we did not want to take your eyes off the ball and have you stray from the over-reaching goal and because the chief of General Staff tried to keep you focused on your mission."
Gantz's decision came as no surprise among the IDF top brass, as he had foreshadowed it last week when he spoke at an army event to recap the lessons learned from Operation Pillar of Defense at the Gelilot base north of Tel Aviv. "I was the one who called this affair 'a carcass' and I can tell you that having been a chief of General Staff of this military for almost two years, the carcass is now dry [when the affair broke out Gantz said the carcass could be smelled all over]; if we need to take a few more bones and clean our lawn, we will do that," Gantz said last week.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit declined to elaborate on Gantz's decision, issuing a statement that "Weiner's future would be decided through the proper army channels, not through the media."
Ashkenazi also issued a statement on Sunday, saying Weiner "is a well-qualified individual with many accomplishments and virtues and has contributed immensely to the security of the state; during his service he found himself in an impossible situation as a result of the conduct of the minister of defense and his bureau, which hurt the army and which is spelled out in the state comptroller's report." Ashkenazi defended Weiner's alleged improprieties in the report, saying that the "criticism over Col. Weiner was disproportionate and ignored this harsh reality," and said that he "feels sorry for Weiner over being relieved from duty."
Head of the State Control Committee MK Uri Yehuda Ariel (National Union) criticized Gantz's decision on Sunday saying that "Col. Weiner was nothing more than the ground-floor security guy in this affair, which still casts a dark shadow over both bureaus [the Defense Ministry and chief of General Staff bureau].
"Only a state commission of inquiry or a criminal investigation, as the state comptroller has asked for, could remove this stain and the cloud of suspicion that is still hanging over the defense establishment and its chiefs and remove this carcass completely."
The committee was supposed to hold a hearing on Monday to discuss the findings of the report. However it had to be called off because opposition leader and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz refused to have such a sensitive topic deliberated so close to the Jan. 22 elections.