A transcript of a phone conversation between former IDF chief of general staff Gabi Ashkenazi and his aide, Col. Erez Weiner, indicates that the two coordinated their response to the Harpaz affair.
The transcript, apparently leaked from an ongoing State Comptroller report on the affair and aired Monday night on channel 10 News, reveals that Ashkenazi knew about a forged document produced by Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz aimed to discredit Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant and torpedo his ascension to the head of the military after Ashkenazi’s retirement.
In the conversation, Ashkenazi and Weiner discuss their possession of a copy of the document after the media had already reported on the forgery and the police had launched an investigation to learn its source.
Ashkenazi: “The weakness is that we have the document. That’s our problem.”
Weiner: “Fine, but you didn’t release it. I know a few other people have it, too…”
Ashkenazi: “If there’s an investigation, we’ll have to appear, and I don’t intend to lie. We’ll have to say how we got the letter.”
Weiner: “No. If there’s an investigation we’ll say it arrived and we deliberated, but we didn’t do anything with it; we thought it wasn’t right.”
Ashkenazi: “But he has to understand, Boaz [Harpaz], that there won’t be any choice about it, and that we won’t lie. Does he understand that?”
Weiner: “I think so. I can make it clearer to him.”
A second recording involved a conversation between Harpaz and Weiner, with Harpaz urging aggressive action against Galant and his backer Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Weiner apparently agreeing with Harpaz and sounding assured that Ashkenazi would support their actions.
“In my view, he’s in. … We’ll continue to gather [material], we’ll tighten the web, and he’ll give the okay,” Weiner is quoted as saying.
The Harpaz affair began with what seemed to be the leaked release of a public relations firm’s written guide toward advancing the candidacy of Galant as army chief. Within days, though, that 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.
Harpaz, a reserves officer in Military Intelligence and an acquaintance of Ashkenazi’s, admitted under police questioning (but subsequently retracted his admission) that the document was a forgery, leading to suspicions it had been drawn up to discredit Galant.
Ashkenazi was cleared from any direct involvement in the affair by a State Comptroller investigation, but was criticized for not coming forth about his knowledge of the existence of the document.
The final report is due to be released in the beginning of July.
“Ashkenazi spoke only truth and demanded this of all the people associated with him. As has already been reported, there were very tense relations between the offices of the defense minister and the chief of staff, and the conversations recorded in the chief of staff’s office reflect this. … Recordings of conversations in the defense minister’s office have mysteriously disappeared, and the law enforcement agencies ought to look into this,” said Ashkenazi’s spokesman in response to the latest twist in the affair.