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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Israel's AG orders criminal inquiry of former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi

Gabi Ashkenazi

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday ordered a criminal investigation of former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his then-assistant, Colonel (res) Erez Weiner, in connection with the so-called Harpaz affair. Weinstein announced that police investigators would participate in the investigation alongside military police who had already been working on the case.
An official statement issued by the attorney general explained that
the decision to broaden the investigation of the affair was made after military police investigators acquired new and possibly incriminating evidence. Ashkenazi and Weiner are suspected of breach of trust and conduct unbecoming of officers.

Weiner was forced out of the army in January, the first casualty of a broader investigation into infighting between the defense minister and the former chief of staff.

Weiner took the brunt of the criticism in a state comptroller’s report released in early January that compiled suspected misdeeds among the army’s brass from 2009 to 2011, and which found Weiner to have had a hand in drafting a forged letter that smeared a candidate who was in line to replace Ashkenazi as chief of staff.

The report, which detailed a bitter inter-office battle between Ashkenazi and then-defense minister Ehud Barak, also said Weiner offered to carry out covert activities against the defense minister for his boss.

The investigation was sparked by reports of the letter, which was apparently meant to stymie the appointment of Yoav Galant as Ashkenazi’s successor.

First revealed on Channel 2 on August 6, 2010, and portrayed as an attempt to smear Ashkenazi, the police found within days that the author of the document was a former rear-echelon officer in the army’s special ops directorate, Lt. Col. (ret) Boaz Harpaz — “a family friend,” by his own admission, of Gabi Ashkenazi and his wife, Ronit.

Harpaz told the state comptroller that he had contacted Ashkenazi but then revised his statement and said that on October 22, 2009, the chief of the staff got in touch with him. Ashkenazi claimed it was the other way around. Regardless, both conceded that Ashkenazi had put Harpaz in contact with Weiner.

The report also found fault with Ashkenazi and, to a lesser degree, Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was chided for not stepping in to calm tensions at defense headquarters.

Sources close to Ashkenazi said he believes that an investigation focusing only on him and Weiner indicates bias. They described the Attorney General’s decision as “a targeted hit, since it would not look into the central issues of who wrote the letter, who was behind it, and the behavior of the defense minister and his men.”

Responding to the attorney general’s announcement Thursday, Ashkenazi said that he planned to fully cooperate with the investigation. He also said that he hoped the investigation would reveal the truth and clear his name.

Wiener on Thursday reportedly said that “from the early stages of the investigation I thought that fundamental questions were left unexamined.”

He added that he had been the one who originally requested an investigation of all the factors involved in the affair, including Ehud Barak, Ynet reported. Wiener also said he hopes that “after a long, cumbersome and expensive process, a serious investigation will examine everyone involved — not just those under the spotlight.”

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