Friday August 28, 2015
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'Behavior unbecoming an officer'
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Mordechai Gilat

Welcome to the jungle

If former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss was a little less square and a little more creative, he may have called the report on the Harpaz affair, which was made public on Sunday, "The Jungle Book" or alternately "Banana Republic" or even "A traveler's guide to the jungle."

That is the title this report should have, even after all the breaks that the comptroller gave to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and even more so to former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi — the star of the affair. Those titles would accurately describe the hundreds of pages in the final report that reveal the anarchy, terribly irresponsible behavior and obsessive paranoia displayed by the person who held the fate of our country in his hands. It describes alleged crimes that went on for a long time at the office of the head of the general staff. It reveals ugly, underhanded maneuvers and contradictory testimonies.

You have to read the transcripts of these conversations, as well as other transcripts that were not made public despite their public significance, to believe that this actually happened in Israel. To believe that this is actually a former IDF chief of staff, who incidentally had, and may still have, political aspirations. To believe that this is a new dawn for some public officials and some innocent and not-so-innocent journalists affiliated with Ashkenazi, spared by the state comptroller who elected not to expose their shameful acts. It would have been best to reveal their actions in the report. You have to read the explosive material to understand that this was not a one-time slip, nor was it just human error or failed judgment. These remarks were not slips of the tongue or meaningless, temporary lapses.

The report describes a group of people, led by Ashkenazi's personal assistant Col. Erez Weiner, who, at Ashkenazi's behest spent about six months gathering dirt on the defense minister and his staff. This group ostensibly subscribed to codes normally followed by organized criminals. They behaved as though the political echelon in the Defense Ministry was the enemy and tried to use their media friends to defame the defense minister and his camp.

You have to read, for example, one of the conversations that the state comptroller mentions in which "Weiner briefed [Boaz] Harpaz with information he intercepted on the defense minister's office. … When Harpaz told him that additional action needs to be taken, like planting an inside person there and coming full circle, Weiner was not taken aback. He voiced his agreement."

And even worse: In one of the conversations, Weiner goes to Harpaz — a close friend of the Ashkenazis — and asks whether Yoni Koren, a long-time adviser to Barak, flew business class.

Harpaz: "Yes."

Weiner: "Why? He is not a director?"

Harpaz: "I don't know."

Weiner: "If he flew business class, it is a violation of protocol. The question is whether you can say with certainty that he flew business class."

That is when the two devise a plan to quietly "dig" into the El Al computer, with the help of a senior official in the Defense Ministry.

Harpaz: "I don't want to speak to him on the phone; he won't understand why I want to see him in person. … Will you see him? What side is he on?"

Harpaz: "Let's do this in the simplest way possible. … Send him a note, make a deal with someone to put the note in his hand, and say that I will call him in 30 minutes. Do you understand? I don't want him to think that I need him for some job. I just want to tell him not to come after me later over the digging into the El Al computer."

In a separate conversation, Harpaz tries to spark a war, saying "people are going crazy, people are preparing ammunition, they are saying 'it's our last opportunity. Let's use it.'"

This is what the fishing expedition at the IDF Chief of General Staff headquarters looked like. They tried to find information they could expose. Harpaz and Weiner spoke 130 times between Feb. and Sept. 2010 (some of the conversations lasted more than 20 minutes). Furthermore, for five months, Ashkenazi's two henchmen exchanged 381 text messages. On top of that, Ronit Ashkenazi, the IDF chief's wife, was in constant contact with Harpaz.

It looked like an entire industry. A war room, really. A well-oiled unit that crossed the line the moment it received the Harpaz document. A pathetic lie that a few simple phone calls — one to Eyal Arad, the strategist who supposedly composed the document — could have easily exposed as a forgery. But that phone call was never made from the IDF chief of staff's office. Just like it was never made by the Channel 2 commentator who "exposed" the document.

The real question is why this call wasn't made. Did the document serve Ashkenazi? Was there someone feeding the chief of staff with false information and inciting him? Did Barak, who managed to get Ashkenazi to hate him, strip the IDF chief of staff of his better judgment and common sense? Was he overcome by desire for revenge?

Anything is possible. The evidence: Ashkenazi knew that the police were urgently looking for the Harpaz document, which was safely tucked away in his drawer, and still he waited four days before handing it over to investigators. He took his time. Another indication that he lost his way: He decided to appoint his co-conspirator Erez Weiner to the post of chief education officer. He made it that far.

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