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'Harpaz acted alone in document forgery scandal'
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
06/01/2013
State Comptroller criticizes Ashkenazi, but says former IDF chief of staff's aide egged Harpaz on, blasts Barak for abuse of power.
 
Despite contentions by some that the Harpaz Document was true and produced by a senior aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, or that it was forged under orders from then-IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the State Comptroller’s Report issued Sunday ultimately found that Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, described as a loose cannon, forged the document himself.

Ashkenazi appears cleared of most of the worst allegations related to the Harpaz Document, while his former top aide, Col. Erez Viner, comes under significant criticism for egging on Harpaz, which is expected to strengthen the calls to file criminal charges against him.

Barak, his aide Yoni Koren and a second aide come under significant criticism for abuse of power in trying to undermine Ashkenazi, which could affect how they are viewed politically, but the comptroller appears to dismiss accusations by Ashkenazi and Viner that the document’s contents were true or that Koren drafted it.

Ashkenazi is at most criticized for “partial knowledge” of Harpaz’s general actions and for responding slowly to the allegations once they surfaced.

The Harpaz Document, originally and briefly known as the Galant Document, was a forged document leaked by Col. Gabi Siboni to Channel 2 on August 6, 2010, describing a plan to improperly advance Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant to become the next IDF chief of staff, and to undermine the office and power of then-IDF chief of staff Ashkenazi.

When the media first published it, Galant was the frontrunner for chief of staff, and it was briefly thought that the document was a strategy by Barak, his aides, who favored Galant, or by Galant, to help him become chief of staff.

Very briefly, the narrative was that whoever leaked the document did so to prevent Barak or Galant from allegedly inappropriately influencing the process. Within a short time, however, police decided that the document was a forgery.

In a turn fit for the most farfetched conspiracy movies, police concluded it had been drafted and leaked to frame Galant for actions he had not taken.

The theory of the investigators, which the comptroller appears to have confirmed, was that someone, eventually found to be Harpaz, who opposed Galant being appointed as IDF chief of staff, leaked the document in order to thwart his candidacy by dragging him into a made-up scandal.

Although Harpaz has given several inconsistent statements to the police in several rounds of questioning, he admitted to forging the document. Galant was cleared of any wrongdoing and might have gone on to become IDF chief of staff had he not been brought down by a later unrelated scandal, another accusation of which he was eventually cleared.

At some point, there were concerns that the State Comptroller’s Report would find Ashkenazi as influencing Harpaz’s actions, but former state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and current Comptroller Joseph Shapira, who criticized the former chief of staff on other issues, unequivocally cleared Ashkenazi of any involvement with either creating or trying to make any use of the Harpaz Document.

The State Comptroller’s Report, which was started in October 2011, was written overwhelmingly by Lindenstrauss.

During the investigation into the report, Ashkenazi, Barak, Viner, several top IDF generals and Ronit Ashkenazi, Gabi Ashkenazi’s wife, were subject to questioning.

In early 2010, Harpaz, who had a long history with Ashkenazi, approached the then-chief of staff, saying he had information about Barak’s attempts to undermine his office. Since Barak’s and Ashkenazi’s offices were already practically at war, Ashkenazi found the idea credible enough to refer Harpaz to Viner. Harpaz and Viner worked together on the issue until August 2010, when the Harpaz Document became public.

Harpaz is already under criminal investigation for forgery and conspiracy to commit to commit a felony, and Viner is likely to also be the subject of a criminal investigation.

When Ashkenazi was first presented with the Harpaz Document, he told Viner by telephone on May 6, 2010, not to deal with it. “Be done with this. Don’t have anything to do with this,” he allegedly said. However, the Comptroller’s Report also noted that Ashkenazi had told Viner to engage Harpaz to gather information and documents about Barak’s plots against Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi also told Viner not to reveal the Harpaz Document to other generals mentioned in it, to “save them the time and anguish of dealing with its contents.” But Ashkenazi knew that Viner was continuing to direct Harpaz in gathering information and documents.

The comptroller’s criticism of Ashkenazi focuses on the fact that he did not turn the document over to the military advocate-general, the attorney-general or the prime minister; nor did he confront Galant and Barak about the document’s allegations, especially after it became public.

In response, Ashkenazi said that he turned over his copy within a few days and that he was overwhelmed with preparing to testify about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla before the Turkel Commission.

Ashkenazi knew that an investigation into the Harpaz Document began on August 8, 2010, and he revealed to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein that he had a copy of it on August 10, 2010.

The Comptroller’s Report appears to consider the severalday delay to be significant, although Ashkenazi never misled anyone about whether he had a copy of the document.

While the report said Ashkenazi acted improper in gathering information about Barak, it also confirms accusations that the defense minister abused his powers in undermining Ashkenazi.

The comptroller added that Ashkenazi should have actively stopped Viner’s and Harpaz’s activities and had general responsibility for Viner’s conduct.

The report notes that Viner distributed the Harpaz Document to various officials, even outside the IDF, against Ashkenazi’s orders, including now Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, on May 10, 2010.

Eizenkot, ignoring an order from Ashkenazi not to have anything to do with the document, shared it with Siboni. Viner also shared it with Siboni, who eventually leaked the document to Channel 2 News without telling Eizenkot or Viner in advance.

As a result of his actions, Eizenkot was investigated by Weinstein, although he was recently cleared of any wrongdoing and his promotion to deputy chief of staff was confirmed.

In his first interrogation with police, Ashkenazi said he believed the Harpaz Document was true, and that many of its “predictions” were in fact fulfilled. He included examples, such as that Barak interviewed candidates for chief of staff behind Ashkenazi’s back, and that he tried to downgrade the rating of current IDF chief of staff, then only a candidate, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, to help Galant have a higher rating and become the new chief of staff.

The comptroller found that the behavior of Barak and his aides surrounding the appointment of Ashkenazi’s successor, treatment of Ashkenazi and treatment of then-IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu was highly problematic, but that Barak was not connected with drafting the Harpaz Document.
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