Forging documents, conspiracy theories and subterfuge were all there. But above
all else, the state comptroller’s investigation of the so-called Harpaz Report
is a depressing revelation of the staggering amounts of time, energy and
resources devoted to petty feuds and interpersonal intrigues by the highest
ranks of the IDF and the Defense Ministry.
And this bitter enmity and
ruthless infighting were played out at a time when Israel faced pressing
security threats from Iran, Hamas-controlled Gaza and Hezbollah in
A product of 26 months of investigations, the 294-page State
Comptroller’s Report is a commendably indepth account of the problematic and
dysfunctional relations between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former IDF chief
of staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi between 2009 and 2011. It sheds light on the
forgery of a document by Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, a loyalist to Ashkenazi,
and the poisonous environment in which the forgery took place.
describes the animosity between Barak and Ashkenazi and the manner in which the
infighting between the two and those loyal to them led to delays in central
appointments of about 150 IDF officers, the leaking of classified information
and how all this might have compromised Israel’s security.
Comptroller’s Report is, in short, a highly-detailed description of what happened
behind the scenes of the military establishment where the most important
security decisions are made, and the picture painted by the report is not
True, the controversy surrounding the Harpaz Report might or
might not be comparable in its severity to past scandals such as the battle
between David Ben-Gurion and Yisrael Galili over the appointment of Palmach
commander Yitzhak Sadeh on the eve of the War of Independence, which might have
led to the surrender of Nitzanim to the Egyptians; the 1954 Lavon Affair, which
led to enormous damage to our relations with Britain and the US; conflicts
between then-defense minister Moshe Dayan and the ninth chief of staff David
“Dado” Elazar during and after the Yom Kippur War.
Still, now that the
comptroller’s report has dealt so well with the question of what happened, we
must now deal with the ramifications. We must now ask ourselves a deeper
question: How could such a thing have happened? How is it that two of the
highest ranking figures in our security community and their close aides were
embroiled in such base infighting? More general conclusions regarding the
ethical standards of our leaders need to be reached. Perhaps a panel of inquiry
needs to be appointed by the government.
Since the problematic relations
between the Defense Ministry and the Chief of Staff’s Office are at the heart of
the controversy, guidelines governing the relations between these two offices
and their respective roles need to be drafted.
Perhaps the most
problematic aspect of the scandal, however, is the adverse effect it will have
on the level of trust we place in the IDF. As Prof. Asa Kasher, author of the
IDF’s code of ethics pointed out on his Facebook page, IDF soldiers are liable
to be disenchanted with the hypocrisy of a situation in which the newly drafted
private is expected to abide by the IDF’s code of ethics while the army’s upper
echelon completely ignores it. And how can mothers and fathers not have
reservations about placing the lives of their sons and daughters in the hands of
the IDF’s command?
It is therefore essential for the sake of the IDF that
tangible steps be taken to restore the army’s tarnished image. Perhaps, as
Kasher suggested, an IDF general should be appointed whose sole responsibility
is to ensure the enforcement of the code of ethics. Perhaps the government
should appoint a new panel of inquiry to make recommendations based on the
lessons learned from the Harpaz Affair.
Whatever steps are ultimately
taken after this week’s State Comptroller’s Report, the public must be assured
that the IDF and Defense Ministry are not the same IDF and Defense Ministry
described in the report.
If it hasn’t already, our defense establishment
needs to put its house in order, for Israel’s sake.