The state comptroller's report on the Harpaz affair is like a damp wall: Wherever you touch it, the paint flakes off and the plaster crumbles to dust, exposing a thick layer of mold and dirt. Even after reading the 300 or so pages of the report, there are more questions than answers. The state comptroller's limited ability to investigate and interrogate, and the investigation methods of his devoted staff (which are wholly different from the police's methods), obligate the launching of a criminal probe into the matter. Such an investigation, which could either yield grave findings or nothing, is unavoidable in light of the comptroller's report.
Manners and etiquette, faulty administrative methods and actual crimes must be addressed separately. Each one of these things is important, but an exhaustive investigation of one does not obviate the need to investigate the others. On the surface, keeping in mind the investigative limitations of the State Comptroller's Office, the report's findings raise suspicion that serious crimes may have been committed, ranging from forgery all the way to obstruction of justice.
When a molehill turns out to be not just a mountain, but a volcano, reality demands an investigation. A police investigation is preferable to a government-appointed investigative committee. The police have more experience and more resources to really expose the truth, and the police's professionalism could serve to neutralize much of the background noise that has accompanied this affair from the very beginning.
Beyond the narrow legal issues, this affair encompasses the potential for constitutional problems. As legal expert Moshe Negbi rightfully pointed out, Basic Law: The Military states that the Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff is "subject to the authority of the government and subordinate to the minister of defense." Not the opposite. The state comptroller's report reveals a grave situation in which military officials tried to turn things upside down and dictate the defense minister's behavior and decisions.
The report also highlights the helplessness of the watchdogs — the attorney-general and his staff. The state comptroller handed over the investigation material in the affair to the attorney-general eight months ago, asking the latter to determine whether a criminal investigation was in order. The state comptroller is legally required to hand investigative material over to the attorney-general any time there is any suspicion of a crime.
According to the law, the attorney-general must make a decision and inform the state comptroller of it within six months of receiving the material, but in this instance, no such decision has been made.