Former chief of staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday questioned the truthfulness of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his associates relating to the “Harpaz affair.”
Ashkenazi pointed out that his associates testified under polygraph and were found to be telling the truth, “while the defense minister’s associates did not get such an approval from law enforcement authorities.”
He added that, “Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his bureau chief publicly stated that they did not know lieutenant colonel Boaz Harpaz. I doubt this testimony.
“My heart is with the senior IDF officers... who had to deal with complaints made both publicly and behind closed doors from the minister of defense about their abilities,” Ashkenazi said, referring to Barak’s comments questioning the professional ability of the head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
On Wednesday, Yediot Aharonot published sections of Barak’s testimony in the comptroller investigation during which the defense minister said that while Kochavi was “talented,” he did not understand the “world of intelligence.”
Barak was discussing an appointment Kochavi had made within Military Intelligence of an officer who was close to Harpaz, the alleged forger of the controversial document central to the affair.
The document detailed a strategy of how to get former OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen.
(res.) Yoav Galant appointed as chief of staff to succeed Ashkenazi.
It was leaked to Channel 2 in 2010 and was discovered to have been forged, leading to a comptroller’s investigation into the relationship between Harpaz and Ashkenazi.
Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv, Barak tried to correct the gaffe. While he praised Kochavi for allowing Israel’s citizens and political leadership to “sleep well at night” due to his work as MI chief, he criticized him for not being familiar with the “power struggles, anonymous letters that exist not only there but also there. This is what I mean that Aviv does not understand.”
Barak then tried to correct himself again and said that Kochavi’s failure to understand the situation might actually be a positive reflection of the type of officer he is.
A former commander of the Paratroop Brigade and the Gaza Division, Kochavi was appointed head of MI in 2010. He is held in high esteem within the military and the government but a number of senior MI officers have stepped down in recent months in protest of various appointments he has made.
Ashkenazi defended the top IDF commanders as having been selected because of their stellar qualifications, talent and commitment, and lashed out at Barak stating that he felt sorrow for these commanders having to face embarassment in front of their soldiers “as a result of the irresponsible statements of the defense minister.”
Barak’s office responded to Ashkenazi’s latest salvo claiming that Ashkenazi and his central former aide, Col. Erez Weiner, had prevented dissemination of the State Comptroller’s report on the Harpaz affair.
By allegedly preventing the report’s distribution, Barak said that Ashkenazi and Weiner stopped “presentation of the truth to the public and instead continue to spread lies, as has happened throughout the investigation, and mislead the public.”
Barak did not elaborate as to how they had allegedly prevented the comptroller’s report from being distributed. The comptroller’s report has been delayed due to disputes between the comptroller and Weiner about turning over documents in the case, but there has been no indication that the dispute will do anything more than somewhat delay the report’s publication.
The defense minister said that it was even more “distressing to see someone directly attack” a commander who was his subordinate, referring to Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant.
Barak claimed that Ashkenazi was ultimately behind attempts to discredit Galant to disqualify him from appointment as the next IDF chief of staff, and appeared to have committed “criminal acts.” To date, no law enforcement officer has charged or implied a possibility of charging Ashkenazi with any crime, although there is a debate about whether Weiner may have committed criminal acts.
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