State Comptroller: Top Defense Brass Locked in Mud-Slinging Rivalry

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said on Monday that the new State Comptroller’s report on mud-slinging rivalry at the very top of Israel’s defense establishment marked “a sad day for the IDF, the state of Israel, citizens, and everyone who was close to the affair.”

Israel’s state comptroller criticized outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi over a relationship full of “loathing and mistrust” that had hurt the military’s image.

Ashkenazi and Barak, whose strained relationship was an open secret, locked horns in 2010 over the appointment of Ashkenazi’s successor as military chief of staff.

Ashkenazi, a comptroller’s report released on Sunday said, had been given a letter supposedly showing that one contender had engaged a publicist to mount a campaign to discredit his rival. The document was leaked to the press and the police later found it was forged.

“Given its content and problematic implications and given the fact that he was then the commander of both officers…, Ashkenazi should have conducted a thorough probe into the document,” the report said.

The state comptroller’s report also said that Ashkenazi acted improperly in allowing one of his aides to gather information that could damage Barak.

The report found fault in Barak’s conduct when he held up Ashkenazi’s appointments of senior officers to a number of key military roles and scolded both men for not “rising above their personal differences.”

“In the state of Israel, where the defense establishment is both a matter of [survival] and an ethos, public trust in security chiefs must not be undermined because of an intolerable relationship [full] of loathing and mistrust,” the report said.

Ashkenazi was quoted in the media as saying he accepted the criticism of his conduct in the report and Barak issued a statement calling for a criminal investigation into the affair.

“I don’t intend to sit in judgement on the sides involved in this report, and I will handle my area in the IDF,” Gantz said, speaking at the start of the General Staff’s investigation into November’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

“Lines were crossed and improper steps were taken in functional and ethical terms,” the chief of staff added. “On occasion, authority was exploited in relation to other people, through the use of information. On occasion, a good act was carried out in good-faith, but it crossed lines that must not be crossed.”

Gantz noted that two committees have been designated to ensure that such breaches do not occur in the future.