(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
After years of rumors and innuendo, Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Monday opened Pandora’s box by removing the gag order on many of the transcripts of telephone calls between key players in the Harpaz Affair and the battles between former IDF chief Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and former defense minister Ehud Barak.
The Harpaz Affair refers to an alleged 2010 plot by IDF Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz to illegally undermine Barak’s choice to succeed Ashkenazi as IDF chief of staff, as part of a more general battle between the two, and involving both sides allegedly spying and spreading misinformation about the other.
The plot involved Harpaz allegedly forging the “Harpaz Document,” which appeared to be a PR strategy document to help push former IDF Maj.-Gen (res.) Yoav Galant through to succeed Ashkenazi – a problematic tactic for a selected, rather than elected, position.
But in truth, it was really forged and distributed to undermine Galant’s candidacy by portraying him as pursuing the top IDF post unethically.
The decision comes only days after the police completed their investigation of the affair and shocked the country by recommending the indictment of Ashkenazi and several other former members of the IDF’s high command, including former IDF legal division head and current Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit.
At the same time, the police cleared Ashkenazi and his aides of Barak’s most serious accusation, that he had attempted a “putsch” to overthrow him as their civilian superior, with the transcripts helping to clarify why.
In one conversation between Ashkenazi and his former top aide Col. (res.) Erez Winner, the two discuss the potentially embarrassing fallout over the Harpaz document.
They also discuss the fact that Ashkenazi possessed a copy, which created suspicion, eventually repudiated, that he was connected to the forgery as well – though he was unaware of its veracity or otherwise.
It is clear that Ashkenazi did not realize that the document was a forgery, and believed it may be part of a real plot by Galant or Barak and his aides to push through Galant’s appointment as his successor.
Ashkenazi is vehement, despite clearly responding spontaneously and not knowing that his conversation would be analyzed later by police, that he and all of his aides must tell the truth.
In part of the conversation, Ashkenazi twice urges Winner to emphasize to Harpaz that he (Harpaz) must tell the truth as well, seemingly worried that the latter may lie if there was an investigation.
The disclosed series of telephone conversations took place from May 6, 2010, to August 10, 2010, between Ashkenazi, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, current deputy IDF chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, reporters, former IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, and Winner. The last two are also suspects in the Ashkenazi case.
Another key excerpt puts Ashkenazi’s actions in a better light too, even undermining the leftover minor criminal charges police have recommended against him, such as his delay in handing over the Harpaz Document and testifying.
In the excerpt, Ashkenazi informs Weinstein that he possesses a copy of it, yet the attorney-general does not appear unduly concerned to acquire it.
Weinstein also agrees to Ashkenazi’s request that he would not have to endure questioning by police until after he has concluded his pending testimony before the Turkel Commission, which was then investigating the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla.
More specifically, Weinstein replies to Ashkenazi’s request, “they will want to hear from you, they will not hear a word from you until after you finish the Turkel proceedings.”
Ashkenazi then says, “until they speak to me, I do not want anything to get out to the press.”
Weinstein responds, saying, “okay, 100 percent. You give over only the document. You will not speak with them [the police] even a single word.”