Barak: Decision Not to Extend IDF Chief's Term Vital to Maintaining Army's Honor

Netanyahu and Barak decided Tuesday to overturn designated IDF chief Yoav Galant's appointment and appoint Maj. Gen Yair Nave temporary IDF chief of staff.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that the decision not to extend Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's term was necessary in order to maintain the military's honor.

"The decision not to extend Ashkenazi's term was not easy to make, but it was made in order to protect the honor of the IDF chief institution," Barak said in a televised interview aired on both Channel 2 and Channel 10 news.

Ehud Barak Emil Salman 17.1.2011
Emil Salman

"It [the decision] concerns ethical and normative issues, and even top-rate professional matters," Barak said, hinting at the Harpaz affair which created a rift between Barak and Ashkenazi.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak announced that Yoav Galant will not be appointed the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the first time in Israel's history that a candidate nominated for the position has been forced to withdraw. The announcement followed news that Ashkenazi's term, which is coming to an end on February 14, will not be extended.

Barak, who described his words as "careful" when speaking about Ashkenazi, said "I am confident that I am acting correctly by not extending his term."

"There is a dark cloud hovering above the IDF chief's office that demands examination to make sure we are working in an ethical and normative environment," Barak added.

Ashkenazi responded earlier to Netanyahu and Barak's decision to retract Galant's appointment and to appoint the IDF chief's deputy Maj. Gen. (res) Yair Nave as the temporary IDF chief, saying that "these are sad times, but the army is stronger than any of the processes occurring around it."

The decision to overturn Galant's appointment came after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced he would not be able to defend the appointment before the High Court of Justice.

Galant is accused of improperly seizing public land near his Moshav Amikam home for his private use and says he did not knowingly lie in the deposition he filed with the court, or in a letter he sent to the Israel Lands Administration.

Naveh, is expected to serve as acting chief of staff for two months, as of February 14.
Netanyahu accepted Barak's request not to extend the tenure of outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in view of the poor relations between the two.

Barak is expected to ask the cabinet to approve a permanent chief of staff, and Netanyahu is expected to be more involved in the process.

Galant said last night that he had been brought before a "kangaroo court" and said he would struggle to prove his innocence.