Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former army chief Gabi Ashkenazi stepped up their public feud on Sunday, with Barak calling for a criminal investigation of Ashkenazi following the publication of the state comptroller’s report on the Harpaz affair, which harshly rebuked the two for years of misconduct at the military’s highest levels.
Barak, who announced his resignation from political life in November, said that State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s report published on Sunday showed criminal behavior on Ashkenazi’s behalf which constitutes “a moral stain and an ethical disgrace that must be condemned and uprooted.”
He called for an immediate criminal investigation against Ashkenazi and the establishment of a governmental investigation committee.
The report, released on Sunday afternoon, was the culmination of nearly two years of investigation into alleged misconduct by Ashkenazi and his staff in trying to influence the nomination of the next chief of staff. Ashkenazi was accused of being involved in the planting of a forged letter by Col. Boaz Harpaz which aimed to smear the top candidate, Yoav Galant, in 2010.
The state comptroller’s report faulted both sides over the affair and the bitter and profoundly debilitating enmity between Barak and Ashkenazi. The lion’s share of blame was put at the feet of Ashkenazi and his most senior personal aide, Erez Weiner, for failing to internalize that they were answerable to Barak, and not the other way around.
Some of the findings of the report have been transferred to the IDF Advocate General, and some to the Attorney General’s Office, and could lead to criminal investigations.
Ashkenazi praised the report, saying it dismissed the harsh accusations leveled at him by Barak and his associates for a long time. He said it proved he was not involved in the process of appointing his replacement, that he didn’t engage in a putsch, and that he did not ask for a fifth year as chief of staff.
The former chief of staff acknowledged erring in not forwarding the Harpaz document to the attorney general when he received it, and accepted responsibility for the exchanges between Weiner and Boaz Harpaz.
Weiner responded to the report saying there was “a significant gap in 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.”