Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in attack mode. Last night he gave a series of TV interviews with one goal: to deflect criticism over his failure to push through the appointment of Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, instead targeting the present chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, whose term he vehemently opposes extending.
If you have complaints about Galant's land business, wait until you see what I know about Ashkenazi, he seemed to be saying.
Barak hinted at the Harpaz affair, a letter forged by Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz to promote the Galant appointment, now being investigated by the state comptroller. Indeed, the comptroller will apparently roundly criticize Ashkenazi over the affair. But that does not clear Barak from his part in the current unending saga.
Barak's anger was channeled yesterday to a secondary issue, the interim appointmentment of Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh as chief of staff for two months. Three former chiefs of staff oppose it, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon, although two of them, Mofaz and Ya'alon are bitter rivals.
The Naveh appointment is apparently the result of a deal between Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When Netanyahu realized Tuesday that he had to backtrack on Galant's appointment, Barak fought bitterly, but apparently gave in only when he was promised that Ashkenazi, whom he hates, would not remain even one extra day around him.
Criticism of Barak and Netanyahu touches on the precedent of a temporary chief of staff in general, and Naveh's suitability to hold that office. If a serious crisis emerges, not unrealistic given the current regional situation, even a "temporary" chief of staff will have command of the army in the ultimate test, war. Naveh came to the deputy chief of staff's post from civilian life only three months ago.
It is uncertain whether Naveh himself, who took some of the fire directed at Barak, even wanted the job of the IDF's caretaker. Yesterday he seemed to be embarrassed by photographers waiting outside his house - hands in his pockets, no beret in his epaulet, hurrying away and avoiding the microphones.
And yet, the appointment is quite likely to be approved. In the end, it is a small problem in the worrisome chain of events in the top brass over the past 18 months.
The current chaotic situation shows the need for a wise choice to replace Galant. The supreme interest must be to stabilize the wheel. Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to become energetically involved in the process to make sure it is done properly.
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