Barak to resume interviews for IDF head

All candidates to replace Ashkenazi exonerated in "Galant Affair."

By DAN IZENBERG
August 20, 2010 07:45
4 minute read.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi speaks publicly for the first time on Wednesday.

Ashkenazi 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)

After all the major candidates for the position of IDF Chief of General Staff were cleared of involvement in the "Galant Affair," Defense Minister Ehud Barak will resume the process of finding a replacement for outgoing Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Friday.

Barak was scheduled to interview the five leading candidates to fill the IDF's top position: OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisencott, deputy CGS Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi and IDF attache in Washington, Gadi Shamni.

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The defense minister was also scheduled to meet with Ashkenazi on Friday.

Investigators have confirmed that the “Galant Document,” which has rocked the IDF and the security establishment for two weeks, is a forgery, and are now focusing their probe on tracking down the person who fabricated it, police announced on Thursday evening. A prime suspect, with a military background, has reportedly been identified.

The document, first made public by Channel 2 on August 6, purported to show that Arad Communications, a public relations firm, drew up plans to damage the reputations of senior army officers in a bid to promote OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant’s candidacy to become IDF chief of General Staff.

The police investigation has found that the complaint by Arad Communications, which argued that the document had been made to appear as if it was composed by the company, is well-founded.

“We have exposed a chain of people who transferred the document,” police said earlier Thursday.



“There is no basis to suspect Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi of being involved in drawing up the document,” police said, adding that all of the major candidates for the position of chief of General Staff have also been cleared of involvement.

Police took the unusual step of publishing information about an investigation before it is complete in order to relieve pressure placed on senior IDF figures.

“In the course of an intensive, speedy and professional investigation, dozens of people, including military officials and civilians, were questioned, and a number of different versions of the document were seized,” police said.

“During the investigation, several reports were publicized in the media, some of which were completely lacking in factual basis, and which harmed various civilians and army officials, and caused needless rumors.”

All those questioned in affair passed polygraph tests

All of those questioned about whether they were involved in producing the document passed polygraph tests when they denied involvement.

Ashkenazi lauded the police announcement that no top IDF officer was involved in forging the Galant Document.

On Thursday, he met with Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and was updated on the investigation.

“It is now clear that great damage has been caused to the IDF and that the accusations against the military were baseless,” Ashkenazi said. “I never believed that anyone in the IDF was involved in this affair.”

Ashkenazi said that he planned to hold a special meeting of the General Staff to discuss ways to improve the IDF’s image and restore the people’s faith in the military.

“We do not have the privilege to stop even for one moment the work we need to do to be prepared for the challenges that are still ahead,” he said.

As a result of this finding, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Barak that there was now no legal obstacle preventing them from choosing the next army chief.

“In view of the vital public interest in choosing the next chief of General Staff quickly, as you explained to me, and given the interim police findings that were presented to me today, according to which there is no evidence of the involvement of any of the relevant major-generals in the preparation of the document, it can no longer be said that there are legal grounds for not choosing a new chief of General Staff,” Weinstein wrote to Netanyahu and Barak.

The attorney-general explained on Thursday: “I reached this decision after studying the facts and determining the proper balance between the goal of conducting a thorough investigation and the vital public interest in preventing a delay in the appointment of a new chief of General Staff, and after it emerged that there was no basis for suspecting any of the major-generals relevant to the appointment process.”

On August 8, the day Weinstein ordered police to investigate the document in response to the complaint lodged by media adviser Eyal Arad, he also told the prime minister and the defense minister that they could not appoint a new chief of staff while the police were trying to determine who was behind the document.

During a hearing held at the Petah Tikva District Court on Thursday, held to discuss police requests for Channel 2 to hand over its copy of the document, state prosecutors received several versions of the forged document, from a number of sources.

Prosecutor Dan Eldad said that should enough evidence be amassed for an indictment of a suspect or suspects, prosecutors might once again push to receive Channel 2’s copy of the document. When tracing a forged document, every copy made can lead investigators to the culprits, he said.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.


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