The Lod District Court on Sunday announced the December trial dates for a defamation case that is a spinoff from the more general criminal and state investigations into the Harpaz Affair.
The court determined for the first time that former defense minister Ehud Barak, former IDF chief-of-staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and several other top generals expected to testify on the case in public.
Most of the trial is to take place the week of December 23, and the public testimony of former and some continuing top figures in the defense establishment looks to be an unprecedented public view into the infighting in the central corridors of power.
In mid-August, Ashkenazi and Barak traded barbs over Barak’s recent accusations, by affidavit submitted to the court in the same case, that Ashkenazi led a group of IDF officers in illegal actions to undermine the political echelon.
The case pits Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, former head IDF spokesman under Ashkenazi, against the McCann Erickson advertising agency, Yediot Aharonot and Haaretz for publishing allegedly defamatory material about Benayahu in relation to the Harpaz Affair.
The Harpaz Affair started with Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, who has admitted to forging a document to undermine Maj.- Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, Barak’s original choice to succeed Ashkenazi as IDF chief of staff.
It metastasized to represent years of infighting between Ashkenazi and Barak over a range of issues, including a massive and shocking report by former state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss (technically completed by his current successor Joseph Shapira) and only recently led to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to ordering a full state investigation into whether Ashkenazi violated any civilian laws.
While Barak’s August allegations against Ashkenazi, Benayahu (for allegedly assisting with a “putsch” against the civilian leadership) and other Ashkenazi aids, were not novel, the declaration did provide greater detail and a more comprehensive picture of Barak’s view of the saga than has been given to date.
Barak goes into detail in alleging how Benayahu tried to undermine Barak in the high command of the IDF and then with the media, as well as allegations of Ashkenazi’s aids spying on Barak.
He also details his version of closer ties between Ashkenazi and Harpaz, mostly denied by Ashkenazi, as well as derides Harpaz with information about past indiscretions.
Ashkenazi has dismissed all of Barak’s allegations as old news dismissed by the comptroller report, but the two appear to have a new opportunity to test each other on an even more public playing field in December.
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