Cabinet Secretary Avihai Mandelblit.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit was questioned Monday under suspicion of fraud and breach of trust in connection with the Harpaz Affair.
The Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit said that the suspect being questioned was a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office and a former senior official in the IDF, but did not mention Mandelblit by name.
Police did not give any further information on Mandelblit’s questioning and the Prime Minister’s Office did not comment.
Mandelblit served as the IDF’s military advocate-general at the time that the Harpaz Affair came to light in 2010.
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 Gabi 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.
The media had speculation that Mandelblit knew about the Harpaz Document, which was allegedly being used by Harpaz to discredit Barak’s choice – Maj.-Gen. Yoav Gallant – or temporarily been given the document by Ashkenazi.
But University of Haifa Prof.
Emmanuel Gross said that mere knowledge or possession of the document, if there was no clear proof of obstructing the investigation, could have been part of Mandelblit’s job as the army’s top lawyer at the time.
Mandelblit had decided there was no evidence
indicating that any officers were involved in the affair.
However, Mandelblit’s successor at the IDF legal division, Maj.-Gen. Danny Efroni, pressed Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to order a wider investigation and Weinstein acquiesced in August 2013.
In March, former IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu and Ashkenazi’s former chief of staff, Col. (res.) Erez Weiner, were arrested and ordered to be kept in custody for several days for their alleged role in the affair.
Both stand accused of destroying documents, obstruction of justice and of holding and disseminating classified documents without approval.
Harpaz was also arrested, and released, in March.
Mandelblit was not arrested or kept in custody.
Ashkenazi is expected to be questioned after all connected witnesses have first been questioned.
The investigation’s conclusion could determine Ashkenazi’s political future as a possible candidate for prime minister.
Police have in the past highlighted the complexity of the investigation, code-named “404.”
They said so far they’ve questioned over 400 people and there are more than 1,000 recordings in the investigative material.Jerusalem Post staff and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.