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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
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WAR IS HELL

Everything You Wanted to Know about the IDF Scandal…

They Were Only Playing Leapfrog…

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Ganz at Monday's press conference.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Ganz at Monday's press conference.
Photo Credit: IDF

Deputy Prime Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon on Monday called for a criminal investigation of the Harpaz document saga, following publication Sunday of the State Comptroller’s report that found grounds for rebuking both sides in the scandal – the IDF brass and the Defense Ministry.

“The facts published in the report are disturbing, shaking and worrying,” Ya’alon said. “It’s hard to digest the level of misconduct and the violation of the most basic values by those involved.

“Their behavior casts a dark shadow on the army and the security apparatus, and requires those involved to account for their actions. The lines were crossed in this case in the relationship between the political and military levels, in understanding where the source of authority lies, and breaking moral and ethical codes.”

According to Ya’alon, the IDF and the security apparatus are not “pawns in the hands of one office or another, or in the hands of one person or another, and they’re not anyone’s private domain.”

He said the conduct described in the report violates the public trust “and raises serious doubts and questions among commanders of all ranks, who are looking upward only to see ugly power struggles, loss of judgment and bad culture, which dishonored the IDF and the security apparatus.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said today was “a sad day for the IDF, the state of Israel, its citizens and anyone who happened near the case.”

The case has to remind those of you who are fond of British musical shows of the immortal tune They Were Only Playing Leapfrog, from Oh What a Lovely war (see video at the end).

In early April, 2010, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that he was not planning to extend the term of office of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi another year. The decision damaged an already terrible relationship between Barak and the topmost soldier in the land. The State Comptroller’s review of the scandal that emerged from that decision described the Defense office and the IDF command as being in an “atmosphere of war.”

To make matters even worse, if such a thing was even imaginable, Barak decided to proceed with the appointment of Ashkenazi’s successor completely behind the latter’s back.

The candidates that were mentioned at the time as being up for the job were Generals Benny Gantz (who got the appointment), Gadi Shamni, Gadi Eisenkot, Yoav Galant and Avi Mizrahi.

On August 6, 2010 journalists Amnon Abramovitch and Roni Daniel revealed on Channel 2’s Friday night news magazine “Friday’s Studio” a document containing guidelines for building a positive image for candidate General Yoav Galant, as well as corresponding guidelines on defaming both Gabi Ashkenazi and Benny Gantz. The document bore the logo of the public relations office of a media consultant by the name of Eyal Arad.

The two journalists let their audience know that both Galant and Arad were claiming that the document was a forgery, but stressed that it was important even as such, as an illustration of the pervasive culture inside the defense community, and attested to the involvement of external players in the process of selecting the next chief of staff and the downgrading of the status of the serving chief.

Israel’s police opened an investigation following the disclosure of the document, and invited for an interrogation the Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and IDF spokesman Brigadier General Avi Benayahu.

While the investigation was going on, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered the freezing of the process of choosing a new chief of staff.

On August 19, 2010, police announced it had clear evidence that the document was, indeed, forged, but then announced that the entire IDF General Staff were cleared of criminal suspicions.

Subsequently, AG Weinstein gave the OK to continue the process of selecting a new IDF chief.

Channel 2 refused to reveal who leaked the document, but then, on August 20, 2010, Colonel (Res.) Gabi Siboni confessed to being the source.

On August 23, 2010, police arrested Lieutenant Colonel Boaz Harpaz on suspicion of falsifying the document. Investigators concluded that Harpaz passed on the document to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Col. Erez Weiner, who passed it to Siboni.

A much contested point has been whether or not Harpaz himself received the document from GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot, who received it from the chief of staff.

In his search for a connection to journalist Abramowitz, Siboni consulted with former deputy head of Mossad Tamir Pardo, whom the journalist described as “former senior Mossad” man.

On September 2, 2020, Defense Minister Barak appeared before the General Staff Forum and spoke in the harshest terms about the document and the incident: “I’m worried about attempts made by several senior officers, both in regular and reserve service, to stop and delay the process of appointing the next chief of staff and gain an illegitimate influence on the results,” he said, adding that the attempt had almost succeeded, causing deep damage to the public confidence in the IDF.”

Some in the media went as far as to call the incident a coup d’etat attempt on the part of the IDF leadership.

Three days later, General Galant received his appointment as the next chief of staff, only to be dumped on February 5, 2011, on suspicion of mishandling the construction of a home in Moshav Amikam.

On February 13, 2011, after a stormy meeting, the Israeli government unanimously approved General Benny Gantz as the next IDF chief of staff.

Now, two years later, the Attorney General will probably have no choice but to recommend the appointment of an independent council to dig into the criminal aspects of the scandal.

And now: They Were Only Playing Leapfrog…

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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