Between Galant and Bar-Lev

The evil fire consuming Israeli politics is burning away every oak and cedar, leaving behind only the thornbushes.

A number of parallels can be drawn between the affair on the police general staff and the one on the army general staff. Police Maj. Gen. Uri Bar-Lev and IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant are excellent commanders from the south who were a threat to their supreme commander. Both Galant and Bar-Lev are charismatic and energetic officers with independent opinions and a unique way about them. Both Galant and Bar-Lev are well connected and love the good life. And a proverbial roadside bomb exploded next to each of them at a critical juncture in their careers.

Uri Ber-Lev- Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

But the similarities between the affairs shaking up the police and army are only superficial. The bomb waiting for Galant was a dud. The chief of staff's close associates falsely accused him and the defense minister so the former would not become the Israel Defense Forces' next chief of staff. In contrast, the roadside bomb that exploded next to Bar-Lev is of an unknown composition. But it's clear that the police commissioner's close associates were not digging for anything that would damage their colleague or the public security minister. The police affair is a singular case; the army affair is systemic.

The Bar-Lev affair is a sex scandal. It gives rise to the prurience and hypocrisy such affairs always do. If Bar-Lev had wild sex with one woman, two or 10, it's not the public's business. But if Bar-Lev forced himself on women, he must be dealt with to the full extent of the law. Under no circumstances must a man compromise a woman's freedom.

Either way, that affair has no real public dimension. Preoccupation with it is tinged with that well-known combination of pornography and self-righteousness. All that can be said now with certainty is that the person who sparked the affair is not Police Commissioner David Cohen. That being the case, the affair does not involve an organization but one man. Whether Bar-Lev's sexual antics are legitimate or not, they have nothing to do with the values or status of the police as an organization.

The Galant affair has to do with rebellion. In an age of yellow journalism it is very difficult to explain its importance. It has no sex, no menage-a-trois, no making-out on the grass. All it has is an attempt by army officers to rebel against Israeli democracy and dominate it. All it shows is that the IDF has been taken over by norms akin to those of a political party's corrupt central committee. The affair in which Galant is a victim is proof that in recent years something very bad has happened to the military, its commanders and values.

That's why the Bar-Lev affair needs to be handled swiftly by the criminal-justice system, while the Galant affair requires a thorough, comprehensive investigation. The Bar-Lev affair will be quickly forgotten, whereas echoes of the Galant affair will be heard for a long time. Unlike the police affair, the military one has an impact on our very existence.

Only in one key element do the affairs of the police major general and the IDF major general converge. They both show that the race for high state office has become violent. Both affairs show that we are quick to burn people at the stake. They both show that we focus on what is below the belt. The debate doesn't revolve around a person's abilities, experience or suitability, but rather his home, pocket and bed. As a result, black becomes white and white becomes black. The main issue is sidelined and the marginal becomes central. The hierarchy of values is collapsing and the public arena has become toxic. When gossip is the new journalism and voyeurism the new politics, greatness doesn't stand a chance.

Does anyone still hope we will someday have a prime minister like Churchill or Ben-Gurion? Does anyone still hope we will have warriors like Yigal Allon or Yitzhak Rabin? No chance. The evil fire is burning away every oak and cedar, leaving behind only the thornbushes.