The deep crisis in which the Israel Defense Forces finds itself is the fault of the government above it, and could be solved if that government − and especially the prime minister − came to its senses and backtracked on its strange plan to appoint Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh as acting chief of staff for up to 30 days starting on February 14. But since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far not demonstrated any ability to extricate himself from the embrace of his defense minister, Ehud Barak, the key lies in Maj. Gen. Naveh’s hands.
One can understand the temptation for Naveh. He served in the IDF for more than 30 years and reached very senior positions. As a religious man, he paid a personal and family price when he was required to command the evacuation of settlements in the northern West Bank. In his view, he was no less worthy than the other candidates to become current Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi’s deputy. When he was not chosen for that post, which would have made him one of the candidates for chief of staff now, he retired to civilian life, from which he was returned to the army about two months ago when (then) chief of staff-designate Yoav Galant needed a deputy.
But suddenly, last week, not only was Galant’s appointment revoked, but a strange improvisation was invented − Naveh’s appointment as temporary chief of staff. The appointment will put Naveh in a convenient position to receive the permanent post as well, but would leave the IDF in an atmosphere of uncertainty, without a commander with full powers and without a deputy chief of staff, who usually serves as chief of the army’s staff and is directly responsible for building up its strength.
Now, Naveh’s test lies in whether he can overcome the temptation, which also carries risks − including arguments against his suitability that the appropriate officials will have to scrutinize closely to assure that another edition of the Galant affair does not recur. He should tell Netanyahu and Barak that he thanks them for their faith in him, but for the good of the army, Ashkenazi’s tenure should be extended by a few weeks. During this short time, the process of choosing the next chief of staff will continue.
Leadership is desperately needed at this time. If the politicians cannot provide it, it is the duty of people like Naveh.
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