Barak: Throw the Book at Ashkenazi and Wiener
With the release of the State Comptroller's report on the “Harpaz Affair,” which documented a long history of animosity and backbiting between outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, officials named in the report have rushed to defend their actions, in preparation for possible civil and legal action against them. The report has been transferred to IDF attorneys and to the State Prosecutor, who has said that he may issue indictments, depending on the contents of the report.
The report singled out Ashkenazi and members of his staff for their attempts to “dig up dirt” against Barak, with the apparent aim of using the information to besmirch the Defense Minister. In one instance, for example, Ashkenanazi aide Col. Erez Wiener asked the Chief of Staff's confidante, Boaz Harpaz, to find out if members of a delegation sent by Barak to the U.S. were flying business class, after the Defense Ministry refused to allow Ashkenazi's people to fly in business class. However, the report said, Ashkenazi himself was not involved directly in the “dirty work” of besmirching Barak.
Commenting on the report, Ashkenazi praised the work of State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, saying that many of the rumors and accusations against him had been dispelled by the report. In particular, he said, accusations by Barak that he had tried to conduct a “coup” against the Defense Minister's authority by using information uncovered by Harpaz to force Barak to agree to IDF appointments made by Ashkenazi had been proven false. In particular, Ashkenazi pointed out, the report said that he had not been involved in attempts to appoint Benny Gantz as IDF Chief of Staff, other than to recommend him for the position, nor had he been involved in efforts to disqualify Gantz's rival for the post, Yoav Galant.
Coming in for the most criticism in the report is Wiener, who Shapira said was responsible for “activating” Harpaz to get information about Barak. Commenting on the report, Wiener said that “I am being forced to pay a personal and political price for doing my job, and for responsibly isolating Chief of Staff Ashkenazi from the 'noise' surrounding him, and to protect him from the ongoing hostility directed at him by Barak's office. No one can take from me the extensive loyal service I did in the IDF. I am proud of my actions,” Wiener said.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said that “in order to get to the bottom of one of the most serious situations we have ever faced, we need a criminal investigation by police and a state investigative committee. The report shows borderline, if not outright, criminal behavior on the part of the Chief of Staff,” the Ministry said.