Analysis: Toxic at the top

The Galant affairs have poisoned the atmosphere in the IDF; first with the Galant document, now with the Galant land affair.

yoav galant311 (do not publish again) (photo credit: flash 90)
yoav galant311 (do not publish again)
(photo credit: flash 90)
The past few months have been poisonous in the upper echelons of the Israel Defense Forces.
Instead of the festivities that normally accompany the end of one chief of General Staff’s term and the appointment of his successor, the atmosphere has been bitter and ugly.
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The first toxin was the Galant Document, also known as the Harpaz Affair after Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz, the former Military Intelligence officer and apparent close associate of outgoing Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. Harpaz forged the paper, with the suspected goal of torpedoing Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant’s appointment to the top military post.
Now there is the Galant land affair, which has made its way to the High Court of Justice and the State Comptroller’s Office, over suspicions that the former head of the Southern Command illegally seized land next to his home in Moshav Amikam. On Thursday, Galant’s attorneys presented State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss with their written responses to the allegations, and next week Galant is expected to be questioned.
How this affair will end is still unclear, but there is speculation that Galant’s appointment could be delayed, meaning that either Ashkenazi will be asked to extend his term or Defense Minister Ehud Barak will be forced to appoint an interim army chief.
The keys are currently in Lindenstrauss’s hands. At the beginning of February, he will submit his findings to the attorney-general, who will then decide how to act. A week later, Lindenstrauss will complete the other investigation involving Galant – or, to be more exact, Ashkenazi and his role, if any, in the writing of the forged document by Harpaz.
Before these two affairs come to a close, the IDF’s has another hurdle with the Turkel Committee, which on Sunday is scheduled to publish the findings from its probe of last May’s Mavi Marmara incident. It is possible that here, too, the top IDF command will come under criticism, in this case for not preparing properly for the Turkish flotilla.
There is no single person who can be blamed for turning the IDF appointment process into something of a bloodbath in recent months, although most of the responsibility lies on Ashkenazi’s and Barak’s shoulders. The hostility between the two is no longer a secret, nor is the fact that they do all they can to avoid meeting each other at official functions.
On Thursday, for example, Ashkenazi was hosted by the senior Defense Ministry staff for a small farewell party.
Barak, whose office is down the hall, did not come in.
The possibility that Galant will decide to walk away from the top IDF post is considered slim. A former navy commando, Galant is known as a hardy warrior who does not give up without a fight. On the other hand, if the allegations against him are true, it is difficult to see how he could become the next chief of staff, as one former IDF general said this week.
In the meantime, the entire IDF is on hold. Galant has spent the past few months formulating the army’s next multi-year plan, which he had planned on passing in his first few weeks in office. If he is no longer to be chief of staff, then procurement plans and training programs, not to mention rounds of appointments and promotions, will all go back to square one and be decided by a different chief.
The IDF needs stability, something it has clearly lacked in recent months.
Because whether the next chief of staff is Galant or not, one thing is certain: Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran are not going to sit around and wait.