Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday closed the Harpaz Affair-related investigation of cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit with no indictment.
Even as the case was closed, however, a public-relations battle remained, with Mandelblit’s lawyer Jacques Chen saying the decision recognized the correctness of Mandelblit’s actions in the affair by indicating that suspicions about him were baseless and did not use the words “closed for insufficient evidence.”
Still, the detailed discussion of the decision included criticism of Mandelblit’s actions, of the allegedly changing aspects of his story and the actual words “no basis for suspicion” did not appear.
The grounds for closing the case are crucial since they could impact a push by Mandelblit to succeed Weinstein as attorney-general. For more than a month, it has been reported that Weinstein will close all charges against Mandelblit on grounds of insufficient evidence for a conviction, and not on the grounds of having no basis for an accusation since many would object to his appointment as the next attorney-general if he only is cleared because of insufficient evidence.
Mandelblit’s legal team praised the decision and Weinstein’s finding that Mandelblit “did the right thing in the shortest period of time” in handling the so called “Harpaz Document” at the center of the affair.
“Today, it is clear that there was never a basis to interrogate” Mandelblit for 40 hours on a “minor incident in which he acted with professionalism, as he was expected to act and which took place five years ago,” they said.
Insufficient evidence can imply that there might have been criminality involved and that ethic violations were likely, accusations that are not expected on the record of an attorney-general. Rather, it implies that the case was closed because of technical litigation issues that the prosecution thought would prevent it from meeting the very high “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
Last September, the police recommended that charges be brought against Mandelblit in his previous capacity as head of the IDF legal division, as well as against former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi; former IDF spokesman Avi Benayahu; Ashkenazi’s former chief of staff, Erez Viner; former IDF Golani Reconnaissance Unit commander Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni; and Lt.-Col. Boaz Harpaz.
All of the charges relate to the Harpaz Affair, an alleged 2010 plot by Harpaz to use the forged “Harpaz Document” to illegally undermine defense minister Ehud Barak’s choice to succeed Ashkenazi as IDF chief of staff as part of a more general battle between Barak and Ashkenazi, involving both sides allegedly spying and spreading misinformation about the other.
Significant time has passed since the police recommendation, and the majority opinion is that Mandelblit would get a pass, with the only debate being on what grounds.