Ashkenazi, Barak trade fire over Harpaz report

Defense minister says he's satisfied by the report, a sentiment Ashkenazi calls "premature and very exaggerated."

Russo, Galant, Ashkenaza and Barak toast wine 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Russo, Galant, Ashkenaza and Barak toast wine 311
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
A draft report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss into the Harpaz Affair and the dire state of relations between former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sparked a new war of words between the two men on Sunday.
The report slammed the conduct of Ashkenazi, but also criticized Barak over a disturbing feud that developed between the two most senior defense figures in the country at the time.
Barak said in a statement that he was satisfied by the report’s findings. Without mentioning Ashkenazi by name, Barak described the report as addressing a series of grave developments that were aimed at subverting the government.
The report highlighted a “dangerous organizational subculture of a small group in the IDF leadership, with the assistance of a few civilians who operated with no authority, and who worked against the political echelon above it, and against its own officers,” Barak said. “It might only be the tip of the iceberg,” he added.
The defense minister said he accepted all of the comments directed at his own conduct and that of his ministry.
Ultimately, Barak had “no reason to take back a single word of what he said in public or closed doors regarding this affair,” the statement said.
“These types of activities bring disgrace” to the IDF command and its values, and must never be repeated, Barak said. He called on the IDF to remain an “apolitical” army.
Sources close to Ashkenazi returned fire, telling Channel 10 that the report was very critical of Barak, and that the defense minister’s satisfaction with it was “premature and very exaggerated.” Regarding himself, Ashkenazi said he never denied making mistakes.
Lindenstrauss sent a copy of a draft on Sunday afternoon to most of those mentioned in it. The report took 14 months to complete, and was based on the testimonies of 300 witnesses, primarily military commanders and security officials, as well as thousands of documents and phone transcripts, a spokesman for the state comptroller said.
Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, a former intelligence officer and an associate of Ashkenazi, denied accusations by police that he forged a document in 2010 that detailed plans to damage the reputations of senior IDF officers who were contending for the post of chief of staff.
The document was designed to appear as if one of the contenders at the time, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, who had been Barak’s choice to replace Ashkenazi, had ordered for it to be drawn up.
The document’s publication threw an intense media spotlight on simmering tensions between Ashkenazi and Barak.
Lindenstrauss’s report cannot be published in full until all of the concerned parties have a chance to reply to him.
The report took Ashkenazi and his bureau to task for allowing Harpaz to become involved in the affairs of the IDF chief of staff, for collecting dirt on Barak and for failing to notify the state comptroller of the fact that Ashkenazi’s bureau had come to possess the document.
However, Lindenstrauss cleared Ashkenazi of accusations that he organized a rebellion against Barak, and dismissed reports of business connections between Ashkenazi and Harpaz.
Channel 2 said Barak also did not escape criticism in the report, adding that the state comptroller accused him of delaying army appointments as part of the feud with Ashkenazi, and failing to attempt to calm the situation.
A source close to Harpaz said that the former intelligence officer was “very pleased” about the fact that the draft report “clearly showed” that claims of business ties between himself and Ashkenazi’s family were disproved.
There was also no evidence found to back up claims that Harpaz forged the document, the source added.
“Harpaz is not the main figure in this affairs,” his media adviser, Ronen Tzur, told Channel 1.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On expressed concern over Lindenstrauss’s findings in a speech in Herzliya on Sunday night.
“How can we rely on the highest-ranking offices that deal with our most sensitive security needs when they are tainted by intrigues, ethical lapses and a lack of integrity?” Gal-On asked. “It is unfortunate that they put personal interests ahead of the national interests of the State of Israel.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.