Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday expressed his satisfaction that a corruption case against him has been closed, but lamented as “regrettable” the five years it took to clear his name.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein made an “unequivocal decision that not one shred of evidence was found corroborating the claim by the former defense minister [Ehud Barak] that a putsch was carried out,” Ashkenazi said.
The case involves a document written by Boaz Harpaz, a close confidant of Ashkenazi, which alleged that then high-ranking officer Yoav Galant was planning to smear Ashkenazi’s name in order to succeed him as military chief. Ashkenazi’s aide-de-camp, Colonel Erez Weiner, was also implicated in the affair.
Barak described the affair as an attempted putsch by Ashkenazi, whose preferred candidate was Gadi Eisenkot (the current chief of staff), while Barak favored Galant (who is now a lawmaker for the Kulanu party and the current housing minister).
“After an unprecedented examination and listening to a hundred thousand recordings of conversations I held during my years as chief of staff, it was found that I did not commit any felony. It is only regrettable that this issue was investigated for five and a half years,” Ashkenazi said Wednesday.
The case against Avi Benayahu, the IDF spokesperson during Ashkenazi’s tenure, was also closed Wednesday. Benayahu said the past two years, during which he was under investigation, had been intolerable.
“The last two years were unbearable for me, I have had to face suspicions, investigations, an unnecessary and highly publicized arrest, publications and dark clouds over my head. I believed and knew all along that justice would be served.”
Weinstein said that Ashkenazi had had an “active” role in formulating the faked document at the heart of the Harpaz affair, Channel 2 reported, but there was insufficient evidence to charge him.
“On the criminal level, standards are different,” Weinstein wrote. “There was no evidence for conduct based on ‘a complete plan of action with political motivation’ or for ‘data collection’ that was criminal in nature.”
Weinstein said that his decision to close the case “does not imply, change or dull the severe criticism by the state comptroller, that the conduct of Ashkenazi, Weiner and Harpaz was inappropriate for such high-ranking military officers.”
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog tweeted his congratulations to “Gabi Ashkenazi, Ronit and the family, on the closure of the case and the removal of a heavy weight from their shoulders.”
Ashkenazi has been widely reported over the years to be considering a political career, possibly in a center-left party, but has never confirmed this.