The war of words between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former IDF chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi escalated on Wednesday, with Ashkenazi calling Barak “obsessive” and Barak responding that Ashkenazi was a liar and a hypocrite.
Barak and Ashkenazi have of late found themselves on opposite sides of a succession scandal known as the Harpaz Affair, in which IDF Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz was found to have forged a damning document purportedly from Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, Barak’s choice to succeed Ashkenazi. Early reports have pointed to the involvement of former Ashkenazi aide de camp Col. Erez Weiner in the drafting of the document, which purported to be Galant’s battle plan for the chief of staff post.
A full report on the matter from outgoing State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is due in the coming weeks.
Following a recent harsh exchange between the two regarding early Harpaz Affair findings, on Wednesday Ashkenazi released a written statement to the press stating that the “obsessive behavior of the Defense Minister toward me, even today is characterized by poor judgment, to say the least.” He added that “the defense minister is expected to devote his time to maintaining the security of Israel.”
Ashkenazi also questioned the reliability of Barak and his inner circle regarding the Harpaz Affair. “My people have been tested by polygraph” Ashkenazi wrote, “and their statements were found to be true.” He stressed that the same could not be said for Barak’s staff.
“Defense Minister Barak and his chief of staff have publicly testified that they did not know Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz (res.). I doubt this testimony,” he wrote.
In response, Barak’s office released the statement saying “it is unfortunate that Gabi Ashkenazi and Erez Weiner are preventing publication of the State Comptroller’s report and the presentation of truth to the public. Rather they continue to spread lies, as they have throughout the investigation, in order to mislead the public”.
“It is all the more upsetting to see a person who staged a direct and intentional attack against a subordinate, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, and allegedly committed criminal acts allegedly done to prevent [Galant] from being appointed chief of staff,” added Barak’s office.
Galant was eventually disqualified from the running following a land appropriation scandal, leaving Barak to appoint Benny Gantz as army chief last year.
Earlier this month, in a letter sent to Weinstein, Barak accused former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi of giving and receiving bribes, claims that Ashkenazi denied, calling the accusations “delusional and unfounded.”
According to Haaretz, Barak’s attorney, Navot Tezlur, wrote that a recent state comptroller draft report of the affair shows that Harpaz had great influence over senior IDF appointments and that by empowering him in this way, Ashkenazi enabled Harpaz to receive bribes from officers looking for promotions.
The comptroller’s investigation reportedly cleared Ashkenazi of direct involvement in the forgery, but questioned his decision not to pass the document on to the proper authorities. The document was reportedly given to Ashkenazi by Weiner, who is accused of improperly gathering information about the defense minister.