Watchdog demands suspension of Netanyahu aide questioned in Harpaz investigation

Avichai Mandelblit was questioned earlier this month under suspicion of fraud and breach of trust in connection with the Harpaz Affair.

June 25, 2014 10:53
1 minute read.
Avihai Mandelblit

Cabinet Secretary Avihai Mandelblit. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

An anti-corruption NGO on Wednesday asked Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein to suspend cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit from his position in light of his being investigated in connection with the Harpaz Affair.

The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel said that, in view of the allegations that Mandelblit held onto an important document in the affair by exceeding his authority as the then military advocate- general, he should not continue in his position, which involves dealing with classified documents.

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The Prime Minister’s Office has declined to comment on the matter.

Mandelblit was questioned earlier this month under suspicion of fraud and breach of trust in connection with the Harpaz Affair, while serving as the military advocate-general when the 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. The affair took place as part of a battle between Barak and Ashkenazi that allegedly involved both sides spying and spreading misinformation about each other.

Mandelblit reportedly knew about the document, which Harpaz allegedly forged in order to discredit Barak’s choice – Maj.-Gen. Yoav Gallant – and was temporarily 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.

As IDF advocate-general, 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 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 arrested and released in March.

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