Panel to Review Eisenkot Candidacy for IDF Chief, but Says Lacking Background Check Tools

Senior appointments vetting committee seeks greater powers.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Gadi Eisenkot, November 28, 2014
Gadi Eisenkot, November 28, 2014Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The Turkel Committee on senior civil service appointments will begin discussions in the coming days on documents regarding the appointment of Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot as the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff.

The committee will then customarily spend about a week scrutinizing Eisenkot’s candidacy to ascertain that there were no flaws in Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s considerations in making the appointment. Eisenkot will submit his resume to the committee and a form, similar to the one submitted to the Civil Service Commission by candidates for senior positions, together with recommendations by former colleagues in the IDF.

However, committee chairman Jacob Turkel does not believe he has sufficient tools to conduct an independent evaluation of candidates’ backgrounds, according to an interview the retired Supreme Court justice gave to the Israel Bar Association’s publication in October. Turkel made the statement when asked in that interview about two cases in which the committee’s conduct was criticized. One was the appointment of Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant in 2011 as chief of staff, which was blocked at the last minute by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, and the second was case of Prof. Jacob Frenkel in 2013, who dropped his candidacy for the position of Bank of Israel governor after an alleged “shoplifting” charge from 2006 emerged.

Turkel said in the interview that in light of his experience with the Galant and Frenkel cases, he has submitted to the government “a series of improvements and corrections to the powers of the committee,” which he said the government has not yet decided to adopt. Turkel said that his only assistance in obtaining information is through the attorney general and that this was insufficient, adding that the committee wants to be given the power to compel people to hand over information they possess about candidates.

When asked whether he had been burned in the Galant affair, Turkel said: “The Galant affair was a clear issue of a complete disruption in the functioning of the various systems. There was an intentional media campaign intended to cause him to fail. In recent years, and especially now when all sorts of things are happening, it is clear to everyone that candidates and others are drafted and draft the media to support or bring down additional candidates.”

Turkel told the Bar Association magazine that the committee is “flooded” with letters containing “disgusting slanders” of every candidate they consider

With regard to Galant, Turkel said committee had received documents from the candidate, his attorney and the attorney general. “And then suddenly, the previous state comptroller [Micha Lindenstrauss] – who had material relating to Galant for a long time but didn’t wake up – announced that he had all sorts of materials, some that we did not have. The attorney general, instead of announcing that he was handing the material to the Turkel Commission, which was the right thing to do, as with legal evidence, announced that he accepted the state comptroller’s opinion and if an appeal was made against the appointment, he could not defend it before the High Court of Justice.”

Turkel said he still believed that with the information the committee had at the time, they made the right decision in approving Galant’s candidacy.

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