Growing Opposition to Government on Chief of Staff Decision

Ministers and ex-commanders criticize the government for rejecting Galant, failing to extend Ashkenazi's term.

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Maayana Miskin, | updated: 10:39

Galant, Barak (file)
Galant, Barak (file)
Flash 90

A growing number of ministers and ex-IDF commanders are criticizing the government for its decisions regarding the next IDF Chief of Staff. One minister termed government decisions “inappropriate,” while a former elite unit commander went farther, saying, “We lost our only chance to prepare for the next war.”

The primary target of criticism is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who recently made two important decisions. He agreed not to appoint Major-General Yoav Galant to the post of Chief of Staff, reportedly under pressure from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Barak also decided not to extend the term of current Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi by two months, preferring to appoint Major-General Yair Naveh as a temporary replacement.

Ministers Moshe Yaalon, Michael Eitan and Silvan Shalom have announced their opposition to Barak's plan to temporarily install Naveh. The three say they will vote against Naveh's appointment when it comes time for the government to approve the move on Sunday.

“This is a mistaken and inappropriate move. Ashkenazi's term must be extended until a new Chief of Staff is chosen,” said Shalom.

Barak previously said that all six candidates for the position of Chief of Staff were worthy of appointment, Shalom recalled. “Please, pick one of the other five and bring him before the government,” he said, adding, “If Barak thinks Yair Naveh is worthy of being the Chief of Staff, please appoint him as the permanent Chief of Staff.”

Barak has claimed that he has “ethical and professional” reasons for not extending Ashkenazi's term, but declined to state those reasons “in order to preserve the dignity of the office of Chief of Staff.”

'We Lost Our Only Chance'
Meanwhile, Barak is also facing harsh criticism from Brigadier-General (res.) Amatzia Chen, a former commander of the elite Shaked unit. Chen believes Barak was mistaken in not appointing Galant despite allegations that Galant attempted an illegal land grab in the moshav in which he lives.

Galant was the only candidate who could have restored the IDF to its full fighting power, Chen said.

“They have been saying the IDF has rehabilitated itself ever since the Second Lebanon War. How exactly did it get better?” he asked. “I've researched the matter in depth, the training misses the essential point, the IDF is developing virtual capabilities. For example, we saw how in Cast Lead they shot and shot and shot but did not go in, in order to avoid the firing of a Chief of Staff.”

IDF soldiers have excellent capabilities, but the IDF command is flawed, Chen believes. “[The commanders] see one meter ahead and no further,” he argued.

“We finally got an officer from the Naval commandos,” he said, naming the elite unit Galant once headed. “One who wasn't infected by the syndrome in the rest of the army. And instead of thinking about it in depth, they preferred to get involved with the formal matters.”

Galant could have been an excellent Chief of Staff despite his legal woes, Chen said. “There is no doubt of Galant's integrity as a commander or a soldier... There is no connection between the two things. Officers, no matter how high their rank, are also citizens, and can find themselves involved in civilian disputes. The place to deal with those is in the courtroom, and not beyond it.”