Israeli army gripped by 'dirty tricks' scandal

Replacement plan: Ashkenazi

Replacement plan: Ashkenazi

Israeli police are investigating after a plan to undermine IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, and ensure OC Southern Command Major General Yoav Galant replaced him, was unveiled on Channel Two news on Friday night.

The "Galant Document" caused a public uproar and deep embarrassment in the IDF's upper echelons. Lt-Gen Ashkenazi ends his term in February 2011 and the question of his successor has been the subject of intense speculation and rivalry.

Five generals are currently vying for the job, with Maj-Gen Galant seen as the favourite candidate of Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

The document detailed the media and lobbying strategy by which Maj-Gen Galant would be built up as the responsible and experienced candidate while Lt-Gen Ashkenazi, who opposes his appointment and blocked his promotion to deputy chief of staff, is portrayed as vain and fractious. The logo of Arad Communications, widely seen as Israel's most influential PR company, appeared on the document. Senior partner Eyal Arad has hotly denied the document came from his office and lodged a forgery complaint with police. Maj-Gen Galant also denied any knowledge of the document.

Mr Arad and the general worked together for three years under Ariel Sharon. They deny being in contact in the past two years or co-operating in any way over the appointment of the next CoS.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered a police investigation and advised Mr Barak to defer appointing a new CoS until this is complete. Investigators have confiscated computers and documents from Arad Communications and questioned employees.

Maj-Gen Galant is close to some Arad Communications associates, but it is unlikely they would compile a "dirty tricks" list under the official letterhead. Many in the defence establishment believe the document was written and leaked to harm Maj-Gen Galant.

Linking him to Mr Arad is also damaging because it highlights his former connection to Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's arch-rival.

Others believe it was prepared by someone working on behalf of Mr Barak, who has feuded repeatedly with Ashkenazi in recent months.

"Barak wants to appoint Galant," said one senior officer, "not so much because he admires his abilities, but he is the general Ashkenazi least wants to see replacing him."

Last updated: 11:50am, August 12 2010