Amos Harel / Far from over
The attempt to block Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant's promotion with a forged document may ultimately backfire and have precisely the opposite effect.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's announcement yesterday, which lifted suspicions from the senior leadership of the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry, brought a collective sigh of relief to the General Staff. Even though many questions are still unanswered, including the identity of the forger, it appears that Weinstein came under enormous pressure to stop the rumor mill quickly.
However, neither the release of the police's interim investigative conclusions nor Weinstein's announcement come close to bringing to the affair to an end.
"We still do not understand who wrote the document," one IDF officer said yesterday. "Was it the General Staff's cleaning lady?"
Several officers said the bad blood in the top ranks of the army and defense establishment remains unchanged, as do the mutual suspicions.
They said they find it hard to understand how senior officers whose relationships have now been exposed as being hostile and tense will be able to continue working together until the next chief of staff assumes his post. They were also skeptical that it would be possible to carry out an orderly transfer of power from outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to his successor - especially if the new head of the IDF ends up being Yoav Galant.
Ashkenazi welcomed the police findings in a statement issued through the IDF spokesman. He expressed "satisfaction over the unequivocal conclusion that no members of the General Staff or the IDF's high command were connected in any way to the forged document," and added, "It is now clear that while the IDF and its image suffered great damage, the accusations against the IDF and its senior commanders were baseless."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak broke the uncharacteristic silence he has maintained for the past two weeks, ever since the affair broke in the news, and also welcomed the police findings and the lifting of all suspicion from senior IDF generals.
Saying he had been confident from the first that the document was forged, he expressed his sadness that "ulterior motives and illegal actions undermined an important and critical process for the State of Israel and the IDF" - the selection of the next chief of staff - "and called the responsibility and value judgments of the [defense] establishment into question."
However, neither the celebratory statements nor the assertion of confidence in the officers' innocence from the beginning are convincing. Indeed, the minister, the chief of staff and their aides all contributed to exacerbating tensions between the IDF and the ministry in recent months. Some staffers in all these senior officials' bureaus were behind the dissemination - both directly and indirectly - of allegations against their rivals. First, the smear campaigns targeted Galant, and later, other generals competing to become the next chief of staff.
Ashkenazi for months thought the document was genuine. Many of his closest supporters, some of whom were aware of the document's contents, and other people who had seen it thought so as well. And the chief of staff is still not saying that he now has confidence in Galant or that he considers him a worthy successor.
Ashkenazi is also not saying why he did not seek clarifications from either Barak or Galant about a document he had in his possession for more than three months. But he has said he knows he owes the public answers, so we can assume he will comment on this in the future.
Barak, whose behavior did not contribute to easing the tensions, ought to conclude that the release of the police's interim conclusions provide a good opportunity to mend fences with Ashkenazi and work closely with him for the last six months of the chief of staff's tenure.
As for Galant, the attempt to block his promotion through the forged document may ultimately backfire and have precisely the opposite effect.
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