Challenges Facing the 20th Chief of Staff

Rebuilding the confidence of the public and the troops in the integrity of the army's top command must be Galant's top priority.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the cabinet Sunday that he is recommending Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant be appointed as the 20th chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. The appointment requires the approval of a committee headed by former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel. It might have been preferable that the police investigation into the alleged forgery of the so-called Galant document be completed before the appointment, as Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein suggested. But Barak created a fact on the ground and changed the situation, so, barring an unexpected development in the investigation or the appointment committee, we can assume Galant will indeed become the next chief of staff.

The IDF's missions are not changing as radically as the staff at the top. Israel's main defense arm has to protect the country, whose borders cry out for definition, and support the political efforts to achieve peace. The army would be best off doing so by means of an approach that avoids loss of life among its own forces, Israeli civilians and innocent civilians on the other side of the border. The strongest organization in the country can also be expected to act with the right combination of morals and discipline, and to take into account its influence on society and the economy.

Galant's immediate challenge will be to rebuild the confidence of the public and the troops in the integrity of the army's top command. In the past year, the defense leadership has been embroiled in an ugly series of clashes that Barak was largely responsible for, and as well as outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to some extent. The sour relations at the top radiated downward and disrupted both the process of appointing a deputy chief of staff last year, and that of choosing a chief of staff this year. Galant must act quickly to heal the rifts, build a team of generals that is experienced and balanced, and prevent an atmosphere of factionalism and settling of accounts among officers.

One of Ashkenazi's achievements, along with a renewed emphasis on training in both the standing army and the reserves, was the restrained tone of the General Staff on questions of war and peace. Galant was apparently more combative as OC Southern Command. The expectation is that as chief of staff, he will grasp the centrality of his role and serve as a brake, not a catalyst for military adventures.