It is unclear why allegations that Avichai Mandelblit had knowledge of or at some point possessed the “Harpaz Document” would lead to a criminal investigation.

Has the investigation in the Harpaz Affair gotten out of hand with the recent questioning of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, Avichai Mandelblit? The Harpaz Affair refers to an alleged 2010 plot by Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, and possibly others, to illegally undermine then-defense minister Ehud Barak’s choice to succeed then-IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen.

Gabi Ashkenazi, as part of a more general battle between Barak and Ashkenazi involving both sides allegedly spying and spreading misinformation about the other.

No one officially knows what the allegations are, but the media speculation has been that Mandelblit had some knowledge of or at some point temporarily possessed the so-called Harpaz Document, a forged document at the center of the efforts to undermine Barak’s first choice, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant.

What is unclear is why such allegations would lead to a criminal investigation of Mandelblit.

When Channel 2 broke the Harpaz Affair on August 6, 2010, it took two days for the civilian police to decide to investigate and two additional days after that for Ashkenazi to reveal to the police that he possessed a copy of the Harpaz Document.

At the time, Mandelblit was the IDF’s top lawyer and head of the legal division with the rank of major-general.

Even if the speculation is true, and Mandelblit did know of or temporarily possess the document for a few hours or days, various experts believe that very well could have been his job.

At the time, no one knew for sure what the document was, whether it was a forgery, who forged it or why.

The whole affair could have required an internal IDF investigation, which Mandelblit would have directed.

If so, what possible law could he have violated by possessing, knowing of and checking into the document’s background and impact? Furthermore, most or all of Mandelblit’s actions with Ashkenazi would have been covered by attorney-client privilege, in his capacity as the IDF’s top lawyer.

If, theoretically, it turns out there is hard evidence that Mandelblit intentionally tried to obstruct the investigation, then, like anyone else, that could be criminal.

But if all there is is that he knew or temporarily possessed the Harpaz Document and spent a short time considering whether he or the civilian authorities should investigate, or if worse this is some sort of retaliation for his decision not to criminally investigate Ashkenazi (since it is not criminal to have different views on an investigation), it is possible that by investigating Mandelblit, the investigators have stretched too far.

On the heels of questioning Ashkenazi’s former top spokesman Brig.- Gen. (res). Avi Benayahu, reportedly, for declassifying information to reporters, also part of his job, this last questioning raises the bar for investigators to produce hard evidence for the investigations.

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