(photo credit: TWITTER)
Six years after rocking the country and casting doubt over the future careers of multiple senior IDF officers, the “Harpaz Affair” entered its final stage on Thursday, with the indictment of Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz for forgery and fraud.
In January, former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein closed the Harpaz case against former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former IDF spokesman Avi Benayahu and top Ashkenazi aide Col. (res.) Erez Winer. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who served at the time as the Military Advocate General and former defense minister Ehud Barak had been cleared previously, with Mandelblit needing to beat a High Court of Justice petition against his appointment as attorney- general due to his role in the incident, despite his being cleared.
The Harpaz Affair was an alleged 2010 plot by Boaz Harpaz to illegally undermine then-defense minister Barak’s choice of Yoav Galant to succeed 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.
Barak’s original choice, Yoav Galant, was slowed by the Harpaz Affair and eventually sidelined by other charges, though he later entered politics with the Kulanu Party and rose to obtain multiple ministerial positions.
Once Galant was passed over, Benny Gantz was selected as a compromise candidate for IDF chief by the warring sides and eventually went on to become a celebrated commander who some now speculate has strong potential for entering politics.
Gantz’s successor, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, was also initially engulfed by the Harpaz Affair, but his involvement was ancillary enough for him to emerge unscathed and beat a petition to the High Court that challenged his appointment.
Charges against Ashkenazi’s wife, Ronit, and Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni were also dropped.
Regarding the central accusation that Barak had brandished against Ashkenazi and the other former IDF officials, the police in September 2014 rejected any charge of a “putsch” to overthrow him.
The police also rejected all charges that Ashkenazi or the others had any connection to Harpaz’s forgery, which started the whole investigation, and even added that the investigation lent further support to their claims of non-involvement and their belief that the document was not a forgery.
Weinstein fully adopted the police’s findings on these issues closing these charges on the basis of “no grounds for suspicion of an offense” – meaning even the investigation itself could be said to have been unnecessary.
Former attorney-general Weinstein himself was practically pushed into the criminal investigation of Ashkenazi by former state comptroller Michael Lindenstrauss and former IDF military advocate-general Maj.- Gen. (res.) Danny Efroni.
At first, in 2013, he only ordered a more limited military investigation of Ashkenazi for conduct unbecoming to his rank.
But continuous pressure by Lindenstrauss and Efroni following new evidence found during that military investigation eventually led to a wider criminal investigation.
In August, the outgoing head of the IDF’s Military Police slammed his incoming replacement in the press for facilitating the criminal investigation of Ashkenazi, saying it had been a baseless political move.
In Thursday’s indictment, the prosecution accused Harpaz, who was once close to Ashkenazi, of tricking him into thinking that a document he forged in May 2010 was a real threat to the integrity of the process of selecting the next IDF chief.
Harpaz forged the document in a bizarre self-initiated act of loyalty to Ashkenazi, knowing that Ashkenazi did not want Galant to get his job, and believing that forging the document would derail Galant’s chances.
Ashkenazi eventually showed and discussed the forged document with other top officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before it was publicized in August 2010, and shortly after it was determined to be forged.
Once it was publicized that the document was a forgery, Harpaz tried an elaborate scheme to hide the computer with which he made the document in the trunk of a friend’s car and concocted several alternate narratives to explain what his role and the role of others had been.
The trial is expected to see Eisenkot, Gantz and Ashkenazi testify.