Former IDF Chief Candidate Denies Vow to Support Barak on Iran Strike

In meeting with State Comptroller, Maj. Gen. (res.) responds to claims that the Defense Minister backed his candidacy over his views on a possible military actions against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant (res.), who failed in his bid this year to become the Israel Defense Forces' next chief of staff, said that while he was a candidate for that job he was never asked his views on a potential Israeli attack on Iran.

Galant told this to employees of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, who are investigating the so-called Harpaz affair involving allegations that Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz forged a document in a bid to improve Galant's chances of being chosen chief of staff.

Yoav Galant - Nir Kafri - 5.12.2011
Nir Kafri

Sources who have spoken to Galant recently have gotten the impression that he holds moderate views on a potential attack on Iran. Contrary to the general impression, Galant apparently does not support military action against the Islamic Republic at the this time. Israel and many of its allies suspect that Iran is close to achieving a military nuclear capability.

Galant's candidacy for chief of staff was scuttled amid allegations that he improperly used public land near his home.

Galant was nominated in August last year to succeed Gabi Ashkenazi as the top IDF officer six months later. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak withdrew the nomination in February this year, about 10 days before Galant was to take office.

This followed a report by the state comptroller on the controversy surrounding the use of land around Galant's home at Moshav Amikam near Zichron Yaakov. Instead, Gen. Benny Gantz succeeded Ashkenazi.

Galant was interviewed by Barak during the chief-of-staff selection process and in the summer of 2009, when Galant was a candidate to become deputy chief of staff.

Recently Galant gave testimony to the state comptroller in the Harpaz affair and dismissed as nonsense allegations that he and Barak had agreed to a common position favoring an attack on Iran in the future. Barak also told Lindenstrauss that the issue never came up for discussion with Galant.

Galant said the Iranian issue was simply never raised during the selection process for deputy chief of staff or chief of staff, and that his position on the matter was never discussed. Galant was GOC Southern Command until October last year, but he was not a party to discussions by the top brass on the Iranian issue.

The sources who have spoken to Galant say that if former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has publicly opposed an attack on Iran at this time, is at one end of the spectrum, and Barak, who is considered the leading proponent to leave the option on the table, is at the other, then Galant may be closer to Dagan.

Galant's testimony in this regard also has a bearing on the Harpaz affair and the bad blood between Barak and Ashkenazi. Harpaz, who was a close associate of Ashkenazi, admitted to police investigators that he had forged the document designed to sully the reputation of Galant's two competitors.

Police also discovered hundreds of text messages between Harpaz and Ashkenazi's wife, Ronit, although a lie-detector test confirmed Ronit Ashkenazi's contention that she had not been a party to the forgery.

Amid questions over Ashkenazi's conduct in the Harpaz affair, his associates say Barak's hostility toward Ashkenazi led to efforts to replace him. This included opposition to extending Ashkenazi's term as chief of staff for a fifth year, purportedly due to the Iranian issue. Barak's goal, according to this contention, was to replace the moderate Ashkenazi with an allegedly more hawkish chief of staff, Galant.

Ashkenazi's associates say he made a mistake in not confronting Barak and Galant with the Harpaz document, which at that point was not known to be a forgery and allegedly presented a plan to assure Galant's appointment as chief of staff at the expense of two other candidates, including Gantz.

As far as is known, Lindenstrauss and his staff are not inclined to accept the view that the confrontation between Barak and Ashkenazi stemmed from a disagreement over Iran policy.

The comptroller is expected to say in a draft report that the poor relations between the two involved personal hostility that developed in 2009 after the IDF's Gaza offensive and over the appointment of a deputy chief of staff. Contrary to some media reports, the Iranian issue will not play a major role in the comptroller's report on the Harpaz case.

Apparently Lindenstrauss is more interested in whether, as Barak contends, Ashkenazi waged a campaign against the defense minister to whom he reported. The current expectation is that although Lindenstrauss will take Barak to task for certain conduct, the person who will suffer the most from the report is Ashkenazi.

Gantz and Galant are not expected to be hurt by the findings, and it is not yet clear how the third chief-of-staff candidate, former GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot, will come off in the report.

Although the draft report has been repeatedly delayed, apparently as additional testimonies poured in, the document is now expected to be finished by the end of this month. The comptroller's office would typically circulate the draft to people involved in the case who may be damaged by the allegations so they can respond before a final version is issued.

But because of the highly charged nature of the case and the heavy media coverage, there is a risk recipients of the draft will leak certain findings. So the people receiving the draft might only be provided the parts that discuss their own conduct.

In any case, the report is expected to be made public by around the end of February.