Analysis: ‘In the care of worthy commanders’

IDF brass is questioned over "Galant document."

Ashkenazi 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ashkenazi 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On the wall of the General Staff conference room, adjacent to the office of IDF chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on the 14th floor of the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, hangs one of David Ben-Gurion’s famous sayings.
“Every Jewish mother should know that she has placed her son in the hands of worthy commanders,” Israel’s first prime minister is quoted as saying.
Many Israelis are likely wondering whether this still holds true, and whether the statement can be applied to the current cadre of senior officers whose names have been linked, in one way or another, to the Galant Document affair that has rocked the army.
The revelation on Tuesday that Ashkenazi was questioned as part of the investigation and that he had been in possession of a copy of the document for three weeks is nothing short of earth-shattering for the IDF. If he knew about the document, why didn’t he come forward immediately once the police investigation began? Also, why didn’t he summon OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen.Yoav Galant and confront him?
This leaves open the possibility that after obtaining the document, Ashkenazi saw an opportunity to prevent Galant, with whom he has not gotten along since before Operation Cast Lead in late 2008, from being appointed his successor. This theory is, of course, only realistic if Ashkenazi thought the document was genuine. If so, it is possible that even if he had not been involved in writing it, he had ulterior motives before Channel 2’s August 6 exposé.
There is no minimizing the significance and severity of the affair. The army chief has been questioned by police, along with other members of the General Staff. While the country has seen prime ministers, presidents and cabinet ministers march into the interrogation room and even the courtroom, the IDF has usually been above it all, held on something of a pedestal.
This, of course, has to do with the Israeli ethos and the fact that the military is considered sacred, sometimes even immune to criticism.
For Ashkenazi, this is without a doubt a troubling development, and not the way he expected to finish up his four years as the IDF’s top soldier. Brought back from civilian life following the Second Lebanon War to lead a distressed military back to its former glory, he would like people to believe he succeeded in doing so, as proven by the success of Operation Cast Lead and the relative quiet that still prevails around the Gaza Strip.
This will no longer be the case. Ashkenazi will now be remembered as the chief of staff who was questioned by police as part of a criminal investigation. He will be remembered not as the officer who rehabilitated the IDF from its post-Lebanon War trauma, but as the chief of staff who lost control of his generals and repeatedly clashed with his defense minister, to the point that even his spokesman, Brig.-Gen.
 Avi Benayahu, openly admits there is tension between Ehud Barak and Ashkenazi.
This will have a practical effect on the IDF. While the military can pride itself on raising a tremendous generation of mid-level and senior officers who currently fill the posts of company, battalion and brigade commander, corruption at the top could trickle down. Also, the IDF only recently succeeded in restoring high motivation among soldiers to become officers. These soldiers will now have to ask themselves if this is the IDF they will want to serve.