Attorney General orders criminal investigation of ex-chief of staff

Attorney General orders criminal investigation of ex-chief of staff

Probe to be limited in scope and to concentrate on alleged conduct unbecoming of an officer; Ashkenazi, aide claim investigation is biased

Former IDF Chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in 2007 (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Former IDF Chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in 2007 (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday ordered the opening of a criminal investigation of former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his assistant Colonel Erez Weiner in connection to the Harpaz affair.

The Military Police investigation will be limited, but may be broadened later depending on its findings.

Ashkenazi and Weiner will be investigated for alleged conduct unbecoming of an officer.

Weiner was forced out of the army earlier this month, the first casualty of an investigation into infighting between the defense minister and the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff.

Weiner took the brunt of the criticism from the state comptroller’s report, released in early January, which investigated misdeeds among the army’s brass from 2009 to 2011, and which found Weiner to have had a hand in the drafting of a forged letter reportedly meant to smear a candidate in order to replace Ashkenazi.

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

The investigation into the affair was sparked by a document meant to sway the appointment of Ashkenazi’s successor as chief of the General Staff. First revealed on Channel 2 News 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 contacted Ashkenazi but then revised his statement and said that on October 22, 2009, the chief of the General Staff got in touch with him. Ashkenazi claimed it was the other way round. Regardless, both conceded that Ashkenazi had put Harpaz in contact with Weiner.

Weiner responded to the report by saying there was “a significant gap between the thickness of the [294-page] report and its merit.”

He said he carried out the demands of his role as Ashkenazi’s aide despite “significant harassment directed against [Ashkenazi] by the defense minister’s office in a systematic manner over time.”

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.”

“Ashkenazi doesn’t fear an additional probe and will repeat his version of events as often as required. That said, it is unacceptable that only one side provided documents and recordings and only one side is being investigated. In light of the launch of an additional investigation, Ashkenazi demands that an investigation also be launched into the severe findings that came to light in the State comptroller’s report regarding the defense minister and his staff, including the abuse of authority for foul purposes, and the destruction of recorded conversations,” read a statement issued by Ashkenazi.

Wiener reportedly said that “If there won’t be an investigation into all those involved, the matter will go to court.”

Ilan Ben Zion and Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.

read more: