As the threats against Israel mount from all directions, the job of the IDF
Chief of General Staff is becoming more challenging by the day.
the list of threats is Iran. While it is apparently true that the Stuxnet
computer virus continues to wreak havoc on Iran’s nuclear program, it is also
true that Iran remains dedicated to moving forward, despite all
Experts agree that within anywhere from a year to four years,
if Iran is not stopped, it will become a nuclear power.
In addition to
its nuclear weapons program, Iran continues to expand its web of influence and
control over the region. Its newest colonial acquisition – Lebanon has now
joined Gaza and Syria as an Iranian puppet.
Then there is Egypt. Iran’s
dictator-in-chief Ali Khamenei has spent the two weeks since the anti-regime
protests began in Egypt bragging that the unrest shows Iran’s star is rising.
The “Islamic awakening” hearkened by the 1979 Iranian revolution is unfolding
before our eyes, he says.
And there is a body of evidence which suggests
that Khamenei is on to something. In an interview on the BBC’s Persian service
Sunday night, Kamal al-Halbavi, a senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,
expressed hope that Egypt will have “a good government, like the Iranian
government, and a good president like Mr. [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, who is very
On Sunday, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman conducted talks
with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thanks to the Obama
administration’s support for the Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamic totalitarian
movement is now seen as a legitimate political force in the post- Mubarak
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The Obama administration’s support for the group against Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak points to the third great security challenge facing
Israel today. The IDF will now have to develop a fighting doctrine that takes
account of the US’s apparent abandonment of strategic reason.
DEVELOPMENTS in Egypt, as well as the sabotage of the natural gas pipeline from
Egypt to Israel at el-Arish, show that the southern front is active again after
30 years. The IDF needs to prepare for the possibility of a conventional war in
the south and the north. It will have to relearn how to fight a war in the
desert. New weapons systems will have to be developed and procured. Troops will
have to receive expanded training.
The regular army will have to be
vastly expanded. The military budget will have to increase massively.
Intelligence assets, already stretched, will have to be significantly augmented
and adapted to meet new challenges.
In short, the ways the IDF thinks
about war, plans for war, arms for war, trains for war and wages war are all
going to have to change.
In light of these awesome challenges, the IDF’s
next chief of general staff will have to have the attitude of a revolutionary as
he guides the IDF through massive change, and commands it in complex and perhaps
Unfortunately, chances that such a commander will
arise received a blow last week when Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided
to force the government to cancel its decision to appoint Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant
to replace outgoing Chief of Gen. Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi next
Galant was the commander that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and Defense Minister Ehud Barak wished to see lead the IDF at this time. With
his reputation for fearlessness, innovation and determination to win wars,
Galant’s appointment seemed like a reasonable one.
This was particularly
true in the face of Ashkenazi’s obvious aversion to the use of force. Ashkenazi
has taken great pride in his consistent refusal to prepare the IDF to launch a
preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities against the expressed wishes
of Netanyahu and Barak.
Ashkenazi upholds his command of the IDF during
Operation Cast Lead as a textbook case of the effective use of limited force.
The veracity of this claim is an open question. In the event, Ashkenazi sent
half the army into Gaza and when they left, they left without Gilad Schalit.
Moreover, they left with Hamas still firmly in charge of the international
border with Egypt.
The depth of Ashkenazi’s involvement in the campaign
to discredit Galant and torpedo his appointment is unknown although it is clear
that he did play a role in galvanizing the campaign against Galant at least
initially. People close to the General Staff insist that Ashkenazi’s
determination to scupper Galant’s appointment, like Barak’s decision to shorten
Ashkenazi’s tenure, was motivated by personal rivalries and animosity. Strategic
issues played at best a secondary role.
The case against Galant has
nothing to do with his military talents. Galant apparently took control of state
land around his homestead on Moshav Amikam without authorization. To be sure,
this was wrong.
But his actions apparently were not criminal acts. Like
anyone else, he could have been expected to pay an administrative fine and
perhaps be ordered to return the lands to the state in the condition in which he
When Barak chose Galant as the next IDF commander, he assumed
that the appointment would go through despite Ashkenazi’s opposition and the
media campaign to discredit Galant. It is the prerogative of the defense
minister to select the chief of general staff. Netanyahu accepted Barak’s choice
and the government approved it. The Turkel Commission, empowered to ensure that
senior civil servants are eligible for their offices, found that Galant’s
misappropriation of state lands was not a disqualifying act and approved his
But then the legal fraternity decided to move in and teach
us all an abject lesson about the state of Israeli democracy as new military
threats multiply by the day. The legal fraternity decided to remind us of the
legacy of retired Supreme Court president and former attorney general Aharon
And it isn’t pretty.
IN 1986, then associate justice Barak
agreed to have the High Court of Justice rule on a petition submitted by one
Yehuda Ressler demanding that the court cancel the exemptions from military
service the government provides to yeshiva students. The petitioner had no
personal stake in the case. And as a result, he had no standing before the
court. Indeed, throughout the 1970s, Ressler had repeatedly petitioned the court
and been denied a hearing due to his lack of standing.
Yet Barak agreed
to hear the case. Since Barak ruled in favor of the state, upholding the draft
exemption for yeshiva students, Barak’s move went largely unremarked. But the
precedent he set was revolutionary.
From then on, anyone could petition
the court on anything. Everyone had standing. Everything was judiciable. The
Court was suddenly empowered to strike down governmental appointments and
decisions, IDF orders, and laws of the Knesset.
Since the Supreme Court
gets to decide which cases it will hear, and since Supreme Court justices have
largely uniform worldviews, it has used its usurped power to shape the political
and social direction of Israel, to cow the Knesset into subservience, to
constrain the powers of the government to lead the country and to limit the
ability of the IDF to defend the country.
This state of affairs is what
enabled the Green Movement – an environmental political party with no direct
interest in Galant’s homestead on Moshav Amikam – to petition the Supreme Court
demanding that his appointment be cancelled due to his apparent misappropriation
of state land. The very fact that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the petition
in the first place was an assault on governmental power.
Still, since the
issue at hand is administrative, not criminal, it is far from clear that the
Supreme Court would have ruled against Galant’s appointment.
Weinstein decided that he didn’t feel like defending the appointment before the
Court and that was that.
UNTIL THE era of Aharon Barak, the attorney
general’s job was to provide legal counsel to the government and represent its
decisions before the courts. After Barak’s legal revolution, however, the job of
the attorney general became the equivalent of an imperial high commissioner.
Rather than provide counsel to the government, the attorney general today tells
the government what it is allowed to do. Instead of providing the prime minister
with legal support for his decisions, the attorney general now defines the law
to accord with his own preferences and personal convenience and so wrongly
limits the government’s power to govern.
Weinstein forced the government
to cancel Galant’s appointment last week not by claiming that Galant’s misuse of
government land was illegal. Weinstein refused to defend Galant against
the Green Movement’s petition because he said he had “ethical problems,” with
representing the case.
Before Barak’s legal revolution, Weinstein would
never have considered acting as an ethical arbiter of governmental power. And
like the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Green Movement’s case, Weinstein’s
decision not to defend Galant’s appointment was a direct assault at the
foundation of Israel’s democratic system.
The abuse of power inherent to
Weinstein’s action was exposed in all its ugly irony on Sunday when the media
revealed that Weinstein himself is under criminal investigation for illegally
employing a foreign worker in his home. Like Galant’s misuse of state
land, Weinstein’s decision to hire a foreign worker to clean his house does not
make him a criminal.
It makes him human. Everyone makes
Weinstein’s belief that he has a right to serve as attorney
general despite his ethical lapse while Galant should be denied his right to
serve as chief of general staff due to his ethical lapse tells us that, like his
colleagues in the legal fraternity, Weinstein has engaged in deeply prejudicial
behavior. If everyone is guilty of something, then by finding Galant unfit to
serve, Weinstein employed an unfair double standard.
It is this basic
unfairness and discrimination that is the foundation of Barak’s legal
revolution. Because if everyone has standing, and everything is judiciable, then
by definition, deciding who gets a hearing and what will be judged involves the
use of prejudicial double standards. Only clear criteria for judicial standing
and judicial writ prevent the rule of law from deteriorating into the rule of
In what should be viewed as a disgraceful display of cowardice,
Netanyahu and Barak meekly accepted Weinstein’s decision and dumped Galant. In
his place they appointed Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz as the next Chief of General
Staff. Gantz is reputed to be an unimaginative commander with an aversion to
In the meantime, Gantz’s appointment is also being challenged in
the Supreme Court. The family of fallen IDF soldier Mahdat Youssef who died in
Nablus in 2000 while under Gantz’s command claims that Gantz behaved wrongly
during the battle and should be disqualified from serving as chief of staff. The
legal issues involved are, well, frankly unknown. But trust the justices.
If they think it serves their interests to bar Ganz from serving, they’ll hear
Somewhere out there, Israel’s enemies are
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