There is no systematic procedure for promoting IDF officers to the rank of major-general, the reservoir of officers from which all commanders of the army are chosen, and the choice, for the main part, depends on the personal relations between the chief of staff and the minister of defense, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus wrote in a report released on Tuesday.
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The timely report comes on the eve of a major reshuffle of the general staff in the wake of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's appointment of Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant as the next chief of staff and the expected retirement of several members of his staff and the appointment of several replacements.
Barak has already made it clear that he will take a dominant role in making the new appointments. According to the law, the chief of staff is the one who recommends these appointments to the general staff (which includes automatic promotion to the rank of major-general) and the minister of defense approves the appointments.
But, according to the state comptroller's report, in practice, there is no fixed way of making these appointments. "The procedure for appointing officers to jobs carrying the rank of major-general is nothing but a "bargaining process: between the chief of staff and the minister of defense. This so-called procedure is not based on any framework, has no rules or regulations is not clearly based on written material or documents, is not documented and, for the main part, is dependent on the relations existing between the chief of staff and the minister of defense."
"This is not the right way to conduct the process," continued
Lindenstraus, even though he added that some of the defense ministers
and chiefs of staff that he interviewed – including the current one –
disagreed with him. "It is very important to institutionalize and
develop clear rules for appointing major-generals. In this context,
criteria for appointing major-generals should be established, while
leaving enough flexibility and freedom to the decision-makers. It is
also necessary to reach a regulated understanding on the question of the
degree to which the defense minister may intervene in the process of
appointing certain members of the general staff, rather than just
approving their appointment and, if necessary, to bring this matter to
As mentioned before, not everyone agrees with Lindenstraus. The list of
those who argue that no criteria should be fixed includes Barak and
former defense ministers Shaul Mofaz, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Moshe
Arens. Former Chief-of-Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak agrees with them.
According to Barak, the chief of staff should not be able to do anything
he pleases. Furthermore, to begin with, there is a significant degree
of agreement among the senior officer staff as to who should be promoted
to major-general.Ashkenazi supports fixed criteria for appointments
Chief-of-staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, on the other hand, said he
believed fixed criteria were necessary and that he intended to establish
some during his term in office.
Another question arose when Barak insisted that the defense minister
should have a greater say in some general staff appointments. These
included the co-coordinator of activities in the territories and the
president of the military court of appeals, key positions such as the
deputy chief of staff and the chief of the intelligence branch, the head
of the air force and some of the district command heads. He told
Lindenstraus the government should consider allowing him to propose
candidates for these positions and have a say regarding when their terms
Lindenstraus supported these comments.
Since the law empowers the minister of defense to approve or reject the
chief-of-staff's recommendations for promotion to the rank of
major-general, the state comptroller investigated how well informed they
were about the candidates in order to fulfill this responsibility. His
conclusion was that they lacked independent means to assess the
qualifications of the various candidates.
Furthermore, the discussions between the defense minister and the
chief-of-staff leading to such promotions are not transparent or
documented. From interviews with the chief of staff and minister of
defense and their predecessors, Lindenstraus learned that some opposed
the move of recording these discussions while others supported it. He
himself concluded that the documentation was "essential."
In the first half of the report, Lindenstraus examined the procedures
for appointing lieutenant-colonels, colonels and brigadier-generals.
Here he found that there was a structured procedure and defined criteria
for making these appointments and that since the Second Lebanon War,
under the command of Ashkenazi, the army's adherence to these
arrangements had improved.
Nevertheless, the state comptroller found many occasions in which the
written procedures were ignored. For example, the minimum amount of time
that a lieutenant-colonel must serve at that rank before being
considered for promotion is 24 months, according to the regulations.
Nevertheless, the state comptroller found that 63 percent of those
promoted to colonel did not complete the full minimum amount at the
The state comptroller also found that many officers did not fulfill some
of the requirements of the jobs and ranks they were given. For example,
24 percent of the candidates considered to fill positions at the rank
of lieutenant-colonel did not fulfill the requirements of education or
military experience. Eight of them were promoted nonetheless.
While acknowledging that the structure of the appointment procedure for
the senior ranks below major-generals existed and that the observance of
this structure had improved after the Second Lebanon War, the state
comptroller concluded that "the results of the investigation point to
failure to observe some of the criteria established by the IDF as a
condition for receiving appointments…This situation does not jibe with
the aim of appointing officers who have the necessary experience and
know-how to satisfactorily carry out their tasks. The IDF must make
certain that the development of the officer staff, and the
characteristics of service, allow it to meet the criteria established as
a condition for appointment to these jobs."
In its response to the report, the IDF spokesman said most of the state
comptroller's comments on the appointments of senior officers were based
on the findings of his initial investigation in 2007. Since then, the
army had begun preparing a "project for the promotion of the officer
staff" in which all of general staff orders were being updated including
those related to the promotion and training of the senior officer
staff. The state comptroller's comments from the initial investigation
had been taken into account in this work, the IDF spokesman said.
The spokesman also replied to the state comptroller's specific criticism
that officers were promoted even though some had not completed the
minimal time in their previous rank. He said the army had amended this
regulation to specifically permit the premature advancement of veteran
and experienced officers who met all the other criteria for advancement.
Regarding the state comptroller's criticism of the lack of fixed
criteria for promoting officers to the rank of lieutenant-general, the
spokesman wrote, "The IDF intends to formally establish certain
parameters including age, training, number of positions held, higher
education degrees and personal profile. The regulation will be presented
to the minister of defense for his comments."