The affair of Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant is an important milestone in the development of Israeli democracy and the defense of civil rights. Galant's neighbors, who suffered from the major general's incursion into public land in their community, refused to accept that the senior office had the backing of the powers that be, and set out on a struggle for their rights. They recruited the help of the "gatekeepers" - investigative journalism, an extra-parliamentary political movement, the High Court, the state comptroller and a minister who took a stand against his cabinet colleagues - and brought about a review of Galant's appointment as the 20th chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces - just before he took office.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sought to promote Galant, have ignored the allegations. They were backed by the Turkel committee on senior appointments, which was established to force the government to adhere to norms of proper government, but was negligent in the exercise of its public duty. Galant's appointment was approved by the cabinet, but was blocked following the Green Movement's petition to the High Court and Minister Michael Eitan's letter to the state comptroller.
Barak and Netanyahu took as chief of staff an officer who supported their tough stance on Iran and ignored the question of whether Galant was worthy of serving as a moral example to the soldiers he would lead in battle. The army is not merely a contractor to the prime minister and defense minister, but a key institution in Israeli society. It drafts young men and women to mandatory service and asks of them to give their lives for the defense of the state. Such an organization can only be headed by an impeccable officer. The state comptroller's opinion states that Galant does not meet this criterion. For the sake of the IDF, he should withdraw his candidacy and a allow a more worthy officer to take his place.
There are no reasons to fear that background checks of candidates for senior command would deter commanders from taking responsibility or from seeking promotion. There is no other way of observing the fundamental norms of proper government. Barak and Netanyahu failed in their responsibilities, and it is good that they were foiled. Civil society has proved it has the strength and ability to hold its ground in the face of belligerent politicians. It is a great achievement for Israeli democracy, which has been the target of a sustained attack for the past two years.
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