Housing minister slams former IDF chief as ‘traitor’

Yoav Galant accuses ex-top commander Gabi Ashkenazi of criminal activity

Then-housing minister Yoav Gallant in the Knesset, June 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Then-housing minister Yoav Gallant in the Knesset, June 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) on Friday launched a bitter attack on ex-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, branding him a “traitor” and condemning the expected closure of a corruption case against the army’s former top officer.

Galant made the comments during an interview with Channel 2, in response to reports that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein was likely to drop the case against Ashkenazi. State prosecutors reportedly determined there was insufficient evidence to indict Ashkenazi for his alleged involvement in a high-level corruption scandal. Police had recommended the former IDF chief be indicted.

Galant has a long-standing feud with Ashkenazi over a reported 2010 attempt to influence the appointment of the latter’s successor as IDF chief of staff.

“I think someone who was a traitor to his command, someone who revolted against the government of Israel should face trial and sit in prison, and not be carried off on people’s shoulders,” Galant said, terming the reported decision to end the investigation “astounding.”

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The minister went on to charge that Ashkenazi’s actions are among the most serious in the history of Israel, and called for all non-confidential documents connected to the case to be made public before a final decision is made on whether to drop the case.

“He disgraced the values of the IDF and committed criminal acts,” he said. “The IDF commander [Ashkenazai] gathered information about me to use it against me and sent his agents like Boaz Harpaz and others,” because, he charged, “he feared I would make it to the office of the IDF chief of staff and I would expose his crimes.”

Galant also claimed that Ashkenazi “hid in a drawer a document that the police were looking for. This is a man who gathered information about the defense minister, on his wife, who follows officers around and photographs them — can we allow ourselves such a thing?”

In January 2013, Israel’s comptroller issued a scathing report stemming from a state investigation into Ashkenazi’s combative relationship with former defense minister Ehud Barak. The crux of the dispute revolved around a mid-2010 attempt to influence the appointment of the successor to Ashkenazi.

As chief of the General Staff from February 2007 to February 2011, Ashkenazi was found by the report to have acted in “a manner unworthy” of a senior officer in his collaboration with former officer Boaz Harpaz, who sought to besmirch Barak.

In September 2014 police recommended Ashkenazi stand trial for his alleged involvement in corruption scandal between 2009 and 2011. After over a year of investigating, special investigative unit Lahav 433 determined that there was enough evidence to charge Ashkenazi with breach of trust and delivering classified information to journalists.

However, Ashkenazi and his associates were cleared of any involvement in forging a document leaked to the press by a former officer and Ashkenazi family friend, Harpaz which defamed Galant, who in 2010 was a top candidate to succeed Ashkenazi.

An investigation into what was dubbed the “Harpaz Affair” was sparked by a document released to the press by Harpaz, which was purported to detail a plan by Galant to gain the nomination and smear Ashkenazi. First revealed on Channel 2 News on August 6, 2010, the police found within days that the author of the document was Harpaz himself, “a family friend,” by his own admission, of Ashkenazi and his wife, Ronit.

Ashkenazi was eventually succeeded by Benny Gantz who served until his retirement from the IDF earlier this year. The current IDF commander is IDF is Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

Barak has claimed Ashkenazi employed “criminal” tools “to thwart the legal process of appointing a [new] IDF chief of staff and against the political echelon.”

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