Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday accused former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi of heading a group of officers who worked to thwart the elected government via methods “that were prima facie criminal.”
In an affidavit submitted to the Central District Court in Lod, Barak charged that Ashkenazi headed “a group of senior officers, several civilians and reserve officers who acted in an unacceptable fashion to thwart the legal process of appointing a [new] IDF chief of staff and against the political echelon, while using tools and behavior that were prima facie criminal.”According to Barak, the officers in question included Ashkenazi’s senior aide, Col. Erez Weiner; Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz; and former IDF Spokesman Brig Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu.
He accused this group of the following offenses: “forging a document; using a forged document; gathering slanderous information about the political echelon and senior IDF officers; and disrupting an investigation – all in violation of the penal code, the Basic Law on the Army, the norms of command and the spirit of the IDF.”The lengthy, detailed affidavit was submitted in the context of a libel suit by Benayahu against two newspapers, Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth, and the McCann Erickson public relations firm. It makes grave, far-reaching charges that had hitherto not been made publicly by any official source.
Barak accused this group of officers and civilians of working “under the direction and leadership of former Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, with, to the best of my understanding, the goal of thwarting the legal process of appointing an IDF chief of staff ... and of undermining the authority of the political echelon.”The document accused Harpaz of playing an active role in digging up dirt about Barak, who was defense minister from 2007-2013, and then bringing it to Ashkenazi’s attention – sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly, via either Weiner or Ashkenazi’s wife, Ronit.
It also accused Benayahu, in his role as IDF spokesman, of feeding selected journalists with information aimed at undermining Barak and his staff, of giving briefings to journalists that were directed against Barak and his staff, and of “generating media manipulations meant to hurt the defense minister and undermine his public status.”
In the affidavit, Barak made particularly harsh statements about Harpaz. “The very fact that Harpaz – a private individual with the potential for [having] outside interests, including business interests – was exposed to and involved in sensitive, real-time issues connected to the defense establishment, in an unauthorized fashion and contrary to army regulations, endangered the security of the state and of those acting on its behalf and in its service,” he wrote.
Barak: ‘Harpaz mixed special ops, private business’The affidavit said Harpaz created a connection “in a grave and dangerous fashion, between sensitive special ops activity and private business. Such a connection is extremely grave, and it has the potential to endanger operational activity, people working in the service of the state, and national security.”
Officers from both special operations and Military Intelligence, Barak continued, warned him that Harpaz’s behavior was creating severe risks for “security interests of the highest order for the State of Israel, and also for the lives of combatants acting on its behalf behind enemy lines.”
The affidavit also discussed what has become known as the “Harpaz document.” This document ostensibly detailed a smear campaign planned by Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant against his rivals in the race to succeed Ashkenazi as chief of staff, but was actually a forgery – perpetrated, police suspect, by Harpaz – aimed at discrediting Galant’s candidacy.The Harpaz document became public knowledge after being leaked to the press, and the affidavit charged that the timing of this leak was not coincidental. Rather, it claimed, interested parties – first and foremost Ashkenazi – kept the document in their possession for months, then gave it to the media at a moment carefully chosen to create a public outcry that would ultimately thwart Galant’s appointment.
This affair, Barak wrote, undermined the fundamental principles of democracy, the rule of law and the spirit of the IDF, and is one of the worst scandals Israel has ever known, from both a public and a criminal standpoint.