Ashkenazi and Barak farewell 311.
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Before it is laid to rest, the Harpaz Document will have taken its pound of
flesh, and some top officials may even go to jail, but at the highest levels,
the damage is likely to be only political, if the State Comptroller’s Report is
In the end, the bombshell called the Harpaz Document,
which once threatened to end the careers of Israel’s top security leaders,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, will
leave them bruised, but not defeated.
Ashkenazi was thought to be the
more vulnerable of the two initially, since if there was a fight between them,
one could argue that Ashkenazi should have deferred to Barak as his civilian
In that vein, the report’s allegations against Ashkenazi, that
he had “partial knowledge” that his top aid Col. Erez Viner was using Lt.-Col.
(res.) Boaz Harpaz to spy on Barak, and that he waited too long to turn over the
Harpaz Document to investigators, are more concrete.
looking at the full picture of open war between the two sides described in the
report, it is apparent that Barak’s aides did their share of spying on IDF
spokesman and close Ashkenazi ally Avi Benayahu, that they intentionally
politically ambushed Ashkenazi in an unprecedented manner and interfered in the
selection process of Ashkenazi’s successor, among other
Given that record, it will be hard to convince Attorney-
General Yehuda Weinstein to prosecute Ashkenazi for employing what he viewed as
minimal self-defense to preserve the professional independence of the
Also, “partial knowledge” is a loser in criminal cases, where intent
needs to be clear, not hazy.
Most importantly, in regard to the Harpaz
Document itself, the main source of criminal allegations, Ashkenazi clearly and
repeatedly rejected using it for his own gain.
Last month, Weinstein only
barely indicted Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman for not revealing for
years that a loyalist of his acted illegally on his behalf during an ongoing
criminal investigation. Here, Ashkenazi revealed his copy of the Harpaz Document
within days of the investigation beginning and it is not clear that it would
have been uncovered otherwise.
Also, whereas Liberman failed to reveal
facts that could hurt him, Ashkenazi merely failed to reveal facts that he
thought were true and might have hurt Barak, making it hard to accuse him of
trying to criminally take down Barak. Even a charge of breach of trust could be
It is also hard to see any criminal allegations being made
against Barak or his aides. The report describes Barak’s actions as highly
problematic professionally and ethically, and notes that his aides, Yoni Koren
and others, did collect information about Benayahu.
But there were no
forged documents and no systematic spying initiatives. And while Barak’s seeming
attack on the office of chief of staff might have been grounds for his
dismissal, he was Ashkenazi’s superior, and it is hard to legally argue that any
actions he took went beyond ethical violations.
For Barak, the only
question the report raises is if the blows to his image will reduce his chances
of being asked to return as defense minister in the next Knesset.
addition, it has been clear since May last year that former state comptroller
Micha Lindenstrauss has been pushing Weinstein to file criminal indictments, but
that the attorney- general held off firmly. At this point it is clear that
Weinstein will only indict high-level officials if he is convinced he will
The big question now appears to be who will file the likely charges
against Viner for his role in the affair. Military Advocate-General Dan Efroni
has said he will investigate the reports of Viner directing Harpaz to spy on
Barak if Weinstein does not.
The easiest question to answer is about
Harpaz. He admitted in most of his contradictory statements to forging the
document and to spying on Barak, and he evidently relished going beyond even the
wildest dreams of Viner and Ashkenazi in plotting against Barak.
real question with him is will he go to jail, and for how long?