An “atmosphere of war” prevailed between Israel’s defense minister and the IDF’s chief of General Staff, the state comptroller wrote Sunday in the preliminary draft of his inquiry into the rabid battle for the IDF’s top spot.
Both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former chief of General Staff Ashkenazi thanked State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss for his thorough 200-page report. But the “bad blood” between the two men, as Lindenstrauss characterized it, was all too evident in their barbed responses to the report.
A spokesman for Barak told Ynet that attempts had been made to “disrupt law and order” and that “certain actions, which cannot be detailed here, tarnished the values and norms of command in the IDF.”
Ashkenazi responded by saying that Barak’s people had “apparently only had the chance to read the part about me and my role as chief of General Staff and not yet read the parts about Barak and his office.” He added that he would respond to the comptroller’s assertions as required and that he would speak publicly only once the final draft had been submitted.
The affair began with what seemed to be a public relations firm’s guide toward advancing the candidacy of the defense minister’s choice, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, to the position of IDF Chief of General Staff. Within days the impression had been turned on its head. The document was a forgery and it was authored in a way that tarred Galant, making him seem like an officer who would stop at nothing to climb the ladder to the very top.
Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz, a reserves officer in Military Intelligence and an acquaintance of Ashkenazi’s, admitted under police questioning (and subsequently retracted his admission) that the document was a forgery, leading to suspicions it had been drawn up to discredit Galant.
Lindenstrauss’s investigation reportedly clears Ashkenazi of direct involvement in the forgery but questions his decision not to pass the document on to the proper authorities. The Galant Document, as it was first known, was given to Ashkenazi by his aide, Colonel Erez Weiner, who is accused of improperly gathering information about the defense minister.
In February 2011 the government for the first time in Israel’s history revoked the already authorized appointment of a future chief of General Staff. Galant was disqualified for filing false dispositions regarding land use around his home. Harpaz, apparently at the behest of Ashkenazi’s wife, distributed much of this information to the press. The already retired Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz was promoted to the top of the IDF pyramid.
State comptroller Lindenstrauss distributed the still incomplete report to Ashkenazi, Weiner, Barak, Galant, Gantz, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Military Advocate General Col. Dani Efroni and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. The parties will have a chance to respond to the report before the complete version is released in April.
The investigation into the affair was carried out by Yaacov Orr, who handles military affairs at the State Comptroller’s Office.
Haaretz reported that some 350 people were interviewed for the report, which has taken nearly a year and a half to compile.