Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced on Tuesday that he has decided to open a criminal investigation of former Israel Defense Forces Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi over alleged "misconduct" under military law.
The investigation is aimed at determining Ashkenazi and his former top aide Col. (res.) Erez Weiner's involvement in the Harpaz affair, which involved a smear campaign against Ashkenazi's potential successor as chief of staff.
Military police will conduct the investigation because the supposed infraction violated military, and not civilian, law.
Weinstein initiated the probe after he received an evidential report last summer, which was compiled by State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and IDF Military Advocate-General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni. Lador and Efroni concluded that there was reason to open a criminal investigation of Ashkenazi and Weiner. Efroni suspects the two of fraud and breach of trust and also suspects Weiner of behavior unbecoming of a military officer.
Once the investigation is finished, the attorney-general will decide the direction of the case. The current evidence seems to implicate Ashkenazi and Weiner. The military prosecutor's office will facilitate the investigation, while updating the attorney-general and state prosecutor through the duration of the probe.
From a legal standpoint, the attorney-general's construction only is feasible once military law has been applied to one of the suspects in the case. At that point, the law could be applied to the rest of those involved in the case.
That the military and not civilian police will conduct the investigation is nothing out of the ordinary, a legal source said on Tuesday. The unusual thing, according to the source, is that the attorney-general decided to call for an investigation after so much time had passed.
The attorney-general concluded that the probe was appropriate after consulting with the state prosecutor and senior officials of the Justice Ministry, as well as the IDF's chief advocate general and other senior officers in the military prosecutor's office.
Weinstein wrote that based on material compiled by the state comptroller, material that was also reviewed by the state and military prosecutors, he believes that the suspects' actions provide enough evidence to indicate that they may have broken military law and behaved in a way unbecoming of a military officer.
Still, there is not enough evidence to imply that they broke civilian law or committed breach of trust, he added.
The detailed evidence compiled by the state comptroller apparently justifies profound, publicly made criticism and wrist-slapping to prevent recurrences of such behavior. Still, at this point, the authorities have not been moved enough to initiate a "civilian" probe by the police based on the available material or reasonable suspicion.
Weinstein will hold off on delivering his final judgment until the investigation has advanced, especially because he indicted Lt. Col. (ret.) Boaz Harpaz. When the investigation has finished, Weinstein can decide whether to indict anyone else that may have been involved. Given the findings of the investigation, the question remains how much impact any indictment against these former senior military officials will have.
Ashkenazi said last night that he told police investigators and the state comptroller all he knew through the course of the previous investigation.
"Ashkenazi isn't afraid of another investigation. He'll give his version again as he's required to. It is unacceptable that documents, recordings and investigations have all been done from one side. An investigation of the Defense Ministry is also appropriate, based on the findings," said Ashkenazi's lawyer.
Weiner could not be reached for comment, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office declined to comment on the attorney-general's decision.