The military's top ranks are riddled with power struggles, mafia-like conduct and threats, testimony collected by the State Comptroller's Office for a yet-to-be-released report reveals.
The statements, which were obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth and published on Thursday, underline the deep discord between Defense Minister Ehud Barak
and former IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi.
In one such statement, Barak recalls Ashkenazi's growing opposition to the appointment of Major General Yoav Galant as the IDF's next chief of staff.
"He gradually intensified his arguments against Galant's appointment," Barak said. "I told him, 'He wants to be a chief of staff. He will behave like a poodle.'
"Eventually the time had come to make the decision; at that point, Ashkenazi said he doesn't trust Galant, that he can't work with him, and that Galant's appointment would be publically humiliating," Barak added. "I decided not to force Galant's appointment on Ashkenazi, and pick Benny Gantz instead."
In another testimony given in June 2011, Barak qualified his statement by saying that "Ashkenazi spoke about trust issues." The defense minister also confirmed that three IDF major generals – Yishai Beer, Amos Yadlin and Gadi Eizenkot – have reported to him about Galant's lacking credibility.
The testimonies were collected by officials from the State Comptroller's Office for a report on the Harpaz affair,
a case mired in fraud and discrepancies that cast a shadow on the selection of the chief of staff two years ago. The report is expected to be released next month.
In another document, Barak relays an argument that developed between him and Ashkenazi in June 2010. During the row, Ashkenazi threatened that "a war" would break out if the defense minister appointed the next chief of staff six months before the successor takes office.
"He told me that if I appoint the next chief of staff at the date that I want, a war will break out," Barak recalled. "I told him, 'Can you hear yourself? You are my subordinate. There cannot be a war between us… I wouldn't step on a fly when it's uncalled for, but I'm not scared of anyone. If a bridgadier general spoke to you that way, you would throw him out of the room.'"
According to Barak, Ashkenazi stormed out of the meeting following the tirade.
Barak also accused Ashkenazi and former IDF spokesman Brigadier General Avi Benayahu of Mafia-like conduct.
"What we see here is Mafia esthetics. And in a place with mafia esthetics and ethics, there is also criminal behavior. Statements made by Ashkenazi and Benayahu… suggest games of honor and threats."
Ashkenazi responded on Wednesday to earlier testimonies leaked from the comptroller's report, accusing the defense minister of "obsessive behavior" and "imprudence."
"The defense minister's obsessive behavior towards me, to this day, is characterized by imprudence, to say the least," he said. "The defense minister is expected to dedicate his time to the protection of Israel."
Officials close to Benayahu dismissed the charges as well.
"Not everyone who grew up in southern Tel Aviv… is a criminal," one associate said. "Barak was the one to bring Benayahu to the IDF, and urged him three times to head his bureau."
The associate also accused Barak of attempting to bar Benayahu from joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau in hopes of recruiting him for his own service.