The police announced Thursday that the IDF chief of staff, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and army brass were not involved in the forgery of the 'Galant document', after the prosecution said earlier that it was indeed a fake.
Police also stated they have a potential suspect who is apparently connected to senior IDF officials. The suspect has yet to be arrested or questioned but will be called into questioning under warning in the coming days
Immediately after the police's announcement, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein published a statement saying there was no longer any legal prohibition on appointing a new IDF chief of staff, after he froze the process following the publication of the document.
"In light of the vital public interest as it was presented to me and in light of the police's intermediate conclusions as they were presented to me today… I believe we can no longer say there is a legal prohibition on making a decision regarding the appointment of a new chief of staff," Weinstein said.
Barak confirmed that the appointment process would continue in the coming days, and scheduled meetings with all five candidates for Friday. He expressed satisfaction with the police's decree, and added that he had known from the first day that the Galant document was a forgery intended to disrupt the process of nominating a new army chief.
Regarding reports of tension between himself and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi because of the affair, Barak vowed that they would continue to work together "until the final day of his term".
According to a police statement, no proof has been found linking the document, which suggests Brigadier-General Yoav Galant furnish a smear campaign against his opponent in the race for the office of IDF chief, and members of the army's upper ranks.
The statement, which was passed on to Ashkenazi moments before its publication, says lie-detector tests have cleared the names of many of his associates, but that the police still have no leads as to the identity of the document's forger.
The police also backed claims by Eyal Arad, whose PR firm was named as the author of the document and who adamantly rejected their involvement. Investigators also succeeded in unearthing different versions of the document, which they say was altered as it passed through various hands.
The police statement was its first public remark on the affair, which has succeeded in halting the selection process of a new army chief. After the prosecution announced the document was forged, Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen convened high-ranking police officials for a debate, after which the statement was issued.
'Pound the culprits without Vaseline'
Harsh criticism followed the police statement Thursday. Former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak told Channel 2 that the forgers of the document "deserve to be hit with everything that can be pounded into them, without Vaseline".
Lipkin-Shahak, who replaced Barak as army chief in 1995, condemned the as yet unidentified forgers harshly. "I see the harm that was done to the army and the defense establishment, and the deteriorated public trust in officials, as well as the harm that was done to the people themselves," he said.
"It's time for the valueless culprit to show a bit of courage, get up and say, 'It was me', and release us from this embarrassment."
Ashkenazi also responded to the clearing of his name, expressing satisfaction tinged with grief for the army's reputation.
"Now it's clear that the IDF and its public image were significantly damaged, and that the accusation slung at the army and its senior commanders were entirely without foundation," he said, adding that he "hadn't believed for a moment" that any senior-ranking officer had been involved.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report
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