From Bad to Worse

The pound of flesh that Barak received for the decision not to push for Galant as the new IDF chief came in the form of the immediate retirement of Ashkenazi.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is apparently starting to understand what a mess he has been dragged into by Defense Minister Ehud Barak regarding the appointment of the chief of staff without thorough vetting and without time for the government to consider the candidate. The embarrassing failure seriously harmed the stability of the IDF, and consequently the security of Israel.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu understood that continuing the struggle to appoint Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant will only further disgrace him. That is why he took the heavy hints sent by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, and voided the appointment.

But in order to sweeten the bitter pill, not for Galant, whose world fell apart, but for Barak, Netanyahu decided, with Weinstein's agreement, to accept Barak's demand not to extend the term of the outgoing Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, even for a few weeks until the next chief of staff is appointed.

The pound of flesh that Barak received, in the form of the immediate retirement of Ashkenazi, was translated into the announcement by Netanyahu and Barak to the government that they want to appoint the deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, as acting chief of staff for two months.

This is a scandalous initiative, which adds the sins of caprice and arrogance to the crime of how the appointment of Galant was handled, and it is entirely motivated by hatred of Ashkenazi, not love for Naveh.

After four years as chief of staff, a continuation of service for a short time is not some prize that the lordly Barak is refusing to grant Ashkenazi, whom he sees as responsible - though that was not the conclusion of the police investigation - for the developments in the so-called Galant document affair. Barak himself, as chief of staff, trimmed about a quarter of a year off his term, not as a punishment but in his haste to get on the next career track.

Continuous functioning of a chief of staff is not personally necessary for Ashkenazi. It is vital for the state of Israel and the IDF. Naveh, a former GOC Home Front and Central Command and director of the light rail in Jerusalem, who was returned to the army to serve as deputy chief of staff, is not the most fitting candidate to be chief of staff.

It is reasonable to assume that a different general will be appointed the 20th chief of staff. The transition to him must be directly from the outgoing chief of staff, without the patchwork of an acting chief of staff who will simultaneously be his own deputy.

This is the moment for the government ministers, usually so quiet and obedient, to demonstrate more responsibility following their failure in appointing Galant. They must decide if they will be Barak's soldiers, or if they will be commanders.