Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet unanimously approved Major General Benny Gantz as the Israel Defense Forces' 20th chief of staff, but the ministerial deliberations were mired by in-house squabbles.
The confrontation began when Minister Michael Eitan, stepped to the podium to express how justified he believed it to be that the cabinet had disqualified its previous choice for the position, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant. Eitan had headed the campaign against Galant, who was under investigation for allegedly grabbing public land to develop his own personal estate.
Netanyah publicly rebuked Eitan over the latter's declaration, saying: "This is not a discussion about Galant, we are talking about appointing Gantz."
Apparently feeling attacked, Eitan rushed to respond that the government was "obligated to fight corruption," to which Netanyahu fired back:
"Enough, if you have something to say against appointing Gantz, say that."
To the table full of stunned ministers, Eitan then hinted that perhaps even Gantz' appointment was not appropriate. "This appointment and that have a lot in common," Eitan said. "In the first case, Galant was given and yellow light and was thus pushed away. In the second case, we are just giving a green light."
Minister Yossi Peled joined in the argument here, demanding that the cabinet raise for discussion Galant's experience in the IDF.
At that point, Netanyahu stepped in, lambasting Eitan for his "mafioso" declarations regarding Galant. "It is unacceptable to me," he said. "This is not the place."
Eitan responded by quoting Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and the state comptroller on the matter of corruption: "There is desire to burn the corruption, it cannot be ignored." In defense of his own words, Eitan added: "What I said is that Galant behaved like a mafioso."
"Control yourself," Netanyahu warned Eitan. "You weren't at the previous deliberation regarding Galant, you were abroad. That was your choice."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak then interjected, telling Eitan: "I don't like [your] heated tone. Those are things you take to the police."
Eitan fired back: "You're talking to me about style? You have the ugliest style in Israel."
The conversation, rife with shouts heard well outside the auditorium, continued for about 20 minutes. When the argument calmed, the ministers voted on the matter, and Gantz was approved.
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