Former IDF chief-of-staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi on Tuesday was questioned by police for the third time in the Harpaz Affair, following two days of questioning in the past two weeks.
Ashkenazi’s wife, Ronit, was questioned in previous rounds, however this time it appears she was not.
Following the first day of questioning, Ashkenazi’s spokesman released a statement that indicated he would “fully cooperate” with the “hope of revealing the full truth” regarding the affair.
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 Ashkenazi as IDF chief.
The police said Ashkenazi is under suspicion of breach of public trust, obstruction of justice and giving classified information to unauthorized persons. They said the other suspect – believed by some to be Ronit, though the police would not officially confirm this – is suspected of obstruction of justice.
The exact dimensions of what Ashkenazi is being questioned on and what, if any, indictment might follow, are still unclear.
In the media’s worst-case scenario, Ashkenazi, his wife and some of his former colleagues could be interrogated for being connected to spying on Barak and other officials associated with him and for being connected to the Harpaz document and attempts to obstruct its investigation.
They could also be interrogated for improperly declassifying information during the infighting with Barak.
The disagreements between the sides were not only personal but regarded the issues of when and if Israel should strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and what kinds of officers should run the IDF’s high command.
A who’s who of Israel’s top reporters on military issues have been questioned by police relating to the allegations of improperly declassifying information – formally the IDF chief and the head spokesman are the top authorized personnel for deciding classification issues.
Some of the allegations around Ashkenazi surround the fact that he possessed a copy of the Harpaz document (which was allegedly being used by Harpaz to discredit Barak’s choice of Maj.-Gen. [res.] Yoav Galant), but waited two days – from August 8 to August 10, 2010 – to inform the police, after they announced an investigation into the document.
The circumstances surrounding his delay are still unclear. Whether then-IDF legal division head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Avichai Mandelblit knew about and temporarily possessed the document is also unknown. And if he did, it is uncertain whether his actions were problematic or appropriate in his role as the army’s top lawyer.
Mandelblit, currently the prime minister’s cabinet secretary, was questioned for around 30 hours, over three days last week.
Media speculation indicated that Ronit might have been in direct contact with Harpaz on her husband’s behalf – supposedly to shield him from direct contact and knowledge of Harpaz’s actions.
When Mandelbit was running the IDF legal division, he investigated the Harpaz Affair and found there was no evidence that anyone besides Harpaz was involved.
But Mandelblit’s successor, Maj.- Gen. Danny Efroni, pressed Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein to order a wider investigation, and Weinstein acquiesced in August 2013.
In March, Ashkenazi’s former chief-of-staff Col. (res.) Erez Weiner was arrested and ordered to be kept in custody for a number of days for his role in the affair.
Weiner was questioned again on Monday, seemingly to confront him with new statements from Ashkenazi.