ISRAELIS have been fixated this week on the jaw-dropping details of one of the dirtiest sagas in the country’s military history.
The State Comptroller Joseph Shapira published the final report on the so-called Harpaz affair, the story of a non-existent scandal that was fabricated to stop the frontrunner for the position of IDF Chief of Staff from getting the job.
Current Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that the release of the report marked a “sad day” for Israel and its military.
The saga isn’t just one of Israel’s dirtiest, but also one of its most complicated, with numerous twists and turns and a huge cast, so here is The AJN’s eight-point guide to the Harpaz affair:
1. Two-and-a-half years ago, an Israeli news show reported on a document which seemed to point to a plan to influence who would become the Israel Defence Forces’ next Chief of Staff. It outlined underhanded ways of boosting the standing of frontrunner Yoav Galant and making other possible choices seem less suitable.
2. At this time, there was a bitter rift between Defence Minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
3. Barak wanted to name Galant as the next Chief of Staff and Ashkenazi disagreed. As such, it appeared that Barak had been playing dirty to get his way.
4. A police investigation found that somebody was actually trying to frame the Barak camp. Barak wasn’t really using unethical means to promote Galant or hold back the other candidates. In reality, the document was counterfeited and made to look like it came from the Barak camp by a reservist and associate of Ashkenazi. His name is Boaz Harpaz – hence the name of the scandal, the Harpaz affair.
5. After the police investigation, Barak tried to move ahead with the appointment of Galant, but an unrelated scandal caused his nomination to be withdrawn at the last minute. The current Chief of Staff, Gantz, was appointed instead.
6. The State Comptroller’s investigation, published this week, confirmed that Harpaz forged the document. Harpaz is under criminal investigation. The State Comptroller’s investigation found that Ashkenazi wasn’t behind the forgery and that he didn’t try to use the document. However, Ashkenazi did agree to have information gathered on Barak, and he was criticised for this. Harpaz collected information with encouragement and practical support of Ashkenazi’s aide Erez Viner, who is expected to be investigated by police. Ashkenazi was also criticised for not monitoring their activities closely enough to stop them, and for not acting as decisively as he could have when he became aware of the document’s existence.
8. Barak, who recently announced his retirement from politics, didn’t come out of the affair smelling of roses, despite having been cleared of accusations related to the document. It brought to light how the military establishment suffered, both administratively and operationally, due to the rivalry between him and Ashkenazi, and Barak was said to have misused his power to undermine Ashkenazi.