Major General Gadi Eisenkot traversed the gloomy Knesset corridor with long strides and a confident expression. He was on his way to a hearing with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which had been asked to confirm his appointment as the head of the Israel Defense Forces Northern Command. Behind him marched his attorney and his public relations expert. They were calm: President Ehud Olmert's office had phoned and promised that the matter was settled, that Eisenkot would "pass the committee" without any special difficulty. The press did not foresee problems either. After all, this was one of the IDF's outstanding commanders, a natural candidate for promotion.
The committee chairman, Tzachi Hanegbi, welcomed the major general with a broad smile and opened the discussion. Hanegbi once stood trial for making political appointments, but that was under the old and unsuccessful parliamentary regime. After the system of government was reformed by President Olmert and Vice President Avigdor Lieberman, it was decided to postpone the proceedings against Hanegbi and other politicians. "It's not fair to continue to judge them according to the old rules, after the introduction of a presidential system in Israel," wrote the new attorney general, a friend of Olmert's who is active in his Kadima Party.
Under the new system, which was copied from the United States, the president of the country is also the commander-in-chief of the IDF, and he appoints every senior official and every officer of the rank of brigadier general or above, subject to confirmation by the appropriate Knesset committee. "From now on, all the appointments will be to our liking," said Vice President Lieberman, summing up the main points of the reform. The committee headed by Hanegbi was placed in charge of confirming appointments in the top ranks of the army and the intelligence services.
Major General Eisenkot, one of the first appointments brought by Olmert to the Knesset for confirmation, told the MKs his life history, listed the positions he has held in the army and described his plans for protecting the north in the wake of the war in Lebanon and in the face of the threats from Syria. And then came the questions.
The first speaker was Effi Eitam: "I'm sorry, Gadi. I know you from the Golani Brigade and I'm aware that you're an outstanding soldier and commander. But our faction met and decided that any officer who participated in the expulsion of the Jews from Gush Katif will not receive our support. You were the head of the Operations Directorate, which formulated the operational orders for the disengagement, and there's nothing to be done."
Danny Yatom spoke after him: "Gadi, we worked together in Ehud Barak's office, and I'm certain that you would be an excellent chief of the command. But Olmert refuses to raise the minimum wage, and the Labor Party will not support his appointments until the matter is solved."
Shlomo Benizri, the Shas representative, asked the major general whether he had separate sinks in his house for meat and milk, and whether he had ever traveled on Shabbat. Yossi Beilin wanted to know his political opinions: "Would you support withdrawal from the Golan in exchange for peace?"
Hanegbi understood that he had a problem, called a recess and asked the major general, the attorney and the public relations expert to come to his office. "Look, it's not as easy as we thought," he explained to them. "I recommended to Olmert that we postpone the appointment, in order not to lose the vote."
Due to the political ambush they had prepared for him, Eisenkot returned disappointed to IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, and the Northern Command remained without a commander until Oved Yehezkel, Olmert's assistant, could put together a political deal that would make the appointment possible. Perhaps in exchange for a small increase in the minimum wage, the transfer of funds to local councils controlled by Shas and the appointment of three deputy directors general from the National Religious Party in the Ministry of Education.
This is submitted as food for thought prior to a vote on the Lieberman-Olmert proposal to introduce a presidential system in Israel.
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