ashkenazi - Moti Milrod - August 31 2010
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi earlier this month. Yesterday he publicly presented his version of events for the first time. Photo by Moti Milrod
Text size

Three and a half weeks after the "Galant document" surfaced, the affair and the race to the army chief of staff's office (which was decided in the meantime ) are still providing a steady stream of news headlines.

The latest crop of topics, gleaned from the past 48 hours alone: Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot's refusal to accept the deputy chief of staff post; the approval of Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant's appointment as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff; and the presentation, for the first time, of outgoing Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi's version of events.

As reported in Haaretz yesterday, Eizenkot informed Galant and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he will remain GOC Northern Command as long as it is required. Barak had viewed Eizenkot's appointment as deputy chief of staff crucial to stabilizing the top army ranks after its recent rocking.

That was why Barak agreed to show restraint over the fact that Eizenkot, his former military secretary, was one of the senior officers who, like Ashkenazi, had known about the Galant document for months and didn't bother bringing it to the defense minister.

Brig. Gen. (res. ) Giora Inbar yesterday defended his friend's decision not to take the number-two spot and emphasized that Eizenkot is not planning to leave the army. Eizenkot will help out the new chief of staff in the north of the country and could be tapped for the deputy spot again, in the second half of Galant's term, according to Inbar. It's doubtful that Galant himself would accept such an offer.

In October Eizenkot will mark four years as a knowledgeable, independent and respected GOC Northern Command.

When Ashkenazi refused to appoint Galant as his own deputy, a year ago, it was Galant who insisted on staying on for a fifth year as GOC Southern Command, where he knew how to make things difficult for his commander. It is hard to believe that as chief of staff Galant would want a northern remake of this relationship.

Eizenkot's refusal increases the likelihood that Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan will get the deputy chief of staff position. If that happens, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, head of the IDF plans and policy directorate, would be appointed head of the air force.

Other candidates for the deputy slot are Gadi Shamni and Avi Mizrahi, although it is not entirely clear whether the latter wants the post. In any case Barak and Galant will face a round of new appointments that will probably involve trimming the General Staff ranks.

The most urgent appointment is the successor to Galant as Southern Command chief, but a new Military Intelligence head must also be found.

IDF chief not a suspecct

Meanwhile, Ashkenazi took a major step yesterday when he presented, in detail, his version of the Galant affair to the General Staff forum. The chief of staff is obviously not a criminal suspect in the case. He admitted to a glancing acquaintance with Boaz Harpaz, the former officer who is suspected of forging the document; to keeping a copy of it in his office for four months; and to showing it to Eizenkot and to Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, both of whom had complained to Ashkenazi about allegedly inappropriate behavior on Galant's part in the contest to be the next chief of staff.

That pins all the blame for leaking the document to Channel 2 on Ashkenazi's aide, Col. Erez Weiner. Ashkenazi said yesterday that Weiner acted without his knowledge.

Weiner fell on his sword for the sake of his commander, relinquishing the possibility of being promoted to brigadier general.

Ashkenazi is the first of the top brass to offer his version of this ugly affair, but it is still not clear why he did not take more decisive action when the document was in his possession.

Barak, for his part, refuses to answer any question on the matter until the police investigation is completed.