Israel's Questionable Chief of Staff

The clock is ticking, and there is still no chief of staff. Galant and Turkel, each in his own area, must provide convincing answers.

On Monday, February 14, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi is supposed to pass the chief of staff's pennant to Yoav Galant. But in recent weeks there have been increasing doubts about whether Galant will indeed be appointed chief of staff, and if so, when.

The two people responsible for this situation are Galant himself and retired judge Jacob Turkel. Galant got embroiled in a land case in Amikam, the moshav where he lives. His behavior in the case is the subject of legal and public dispute. Following an angry response by his neighbors and an investigative report in the Maariv newspaper, cabinet minister Michael Eitan became involved, collecting a great deal of material and demanding thorough clarification of the matter. Eitan is also the only minister who opposed Galant's appointment at a cabinet meeting.

The government, under the negligent responsibility of Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, would not have voted on the appointment had not Judge Turkel hurried to approve it in the senior appointments committee that he chairs. "Hurried," in the sense of "hastened" and even "rushed."

The appointments committee is supposed to classify and screen people recommended by ministers for senior positions that include the national police chief, the heads of the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad, and the governor of the Bank of Israel. It is not its job to make pronouncements about the military competence of the chief of staff, or the economic credentials of the bank governor, but it must thoroughly examine whether the character, background and connections of the candidate qualify or disqualify him.

To demonstrate the importance of the matter, it's enough to remember what happened in the 1970s to Asher Yadlin, the candidate for bank governor.

Turkel, who is also busy with the committee on the Turkish flotilla, is in a rush. He didn't bother to delve into the material and didn't even wait for the report of the deputy attorney general. His questions to Galant - cited in an appointments committee document following a petition to the Supreme Court by attorneys Nadav Appelbaum and Ziv Glazberg - were superficial. The judges were hard on the state attorney's representative and sent her back to correct and complete her arguments.

Two days ago, the attorney general used information given to him by the state comptroller as a pretext to ask for an additional delay.

The clock is ticking, and there is still no chief of staff. Galant and Turkel, each in his own area, must provide convincing answers, because if not, their jobs should be given to those whose behavior does not raise questions.