Knesset Report Calls for New Major General Standards

The Knesset should pass legislation setting basic standards for the appointment of majors generals in the Israel Defense Force, a Knesset subcommittee report recommended yesterday, noting that the current method is problematic because it is not transparent or subject to public review.

"The way in which majors general are appointed in the IDF is contrary to proper rules," said the report, which was submitted to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday. "The current appointment method is in the hands of only two [people], the defense minister and the chief of staff, without public review and without the minimal amount of transparency regarding the criteria and considerations for the officers' promotion. The process is afflicted with an absence of binding procedures. There are no binding standards regarding the conditions required for the appointment of a major general to any post."

The report was compiled by the subcommittee examining the training of senior IDF officers, which is headed by MK Effi Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party). It recommends legislation that sets a "different process that lives up to the rules of good governance," which would be based on the quality and training of the officer being considered.

However, a member of the Knesset committee said the chances of the recommendation being accepted are very slim.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, MK Tzachi Hanegbi, expressed his opposition to the report's findings yesterday, saying: "There are sections that are not so agreed-upon, like the section on the majors general, which in my eyes is a sensitive topic that requires more in-depth discussion. It's not certain that we as a committee would want to be involved in the appointment of majors general in the army, the Shin Bet [security service] and the Mossad. We will open this subject to debate."

In addition to its suggestions on the appointment process, the subcommittee - which includes the new deputy defense minister, Matan Vilnai (Labor); the chairman of Meretz-Yahad, Yossi Beilin; and MKs from Kadima and National Union - also recommended the establishment of a college for the study of military and security matters. According to the recommendation, all candidates for service in senior military positions would have to study there and receive a degree in studies related to combat. The foreign affairs committee is expected to advance legislation related to the establishment of such a college.

Eitam said a "black hole" has developed in the knowledge required for being top officers.

"A large part of the problems in the conduct of the army in the [Second Lebanon] War stemmed from the fact that the IDF's chain of command, from the chief of staff downward, was not prepared for a time of war from the perspective of preparation tracks, the jobs carried out and the training," he said.

However, Eitam noted that there has already been a major change for the better.

He was referring to comments by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who told the committee that the army held a course for division commanders, and that a course for brigade commanders was due to begin shortly.