Lindenstrauss Blasts the Way Senior IDF Appointments Are Made

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss caustically blasted the process of making senior appointments in the Israel Defense Forces in a report published yesterday. He recommended urgent changes in appointing generals.

The state comptroller says the current appointments process is merely "a negotiation between the chief of staff and the defense minister," which is not bound by agreed on rules and regulations, does not rely on a uniform set of variables and [how it's done] is not recorded.

Lindenstrauss recommends the Mossad and the Shin Bet adopt the changes that the IDF will incorporate in making appointments.

Lindenstrauss did praise the process used for lower-ranking appointments, those between lieutenat colonel and brigadier general, where, he says, significant improvements have taken place since the Second Lebanon War.

The report was prepared by the defense section at the State Comptroller's Office, headed by Major General (res. ) Ya'akov Or, and is a "system-wide" report, addressing more the improvements required and less on the need for heads to topple.

The report, however, does focus on several specific appointments. One is the military secretary of the prime minister, a post that comes with the rank of major general, even though the defense minister and the chief of staff say it's sufficient for such a post to have the rank of a brigadier general.

Another appointment in the report is the promise made by two defense ministers (and not kept to date ) to Brigadier General (now res ) Mike Herzog, to promote him to major general.

The state comptroller also notes the appointment of Brigadier General Avi Ashkenazi, younger brother of the chief of staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, in which the latter's conduct was found to be wanting.

Unusually, and in the absence of clear procedure, Or and his staff relied on a series of interviews with former defense ministers and chiefs of staff, along with conversations with Gabi Ashkenazi and Ehud Barak.

Appointing major generals, the report states in its introduction, is about "the highest echelon of command in the IDF, which is of utmost significance on a national and public level." The current process is "a negotiation between the chief of staff and the defense minister. The 'process' is not structured; it is not based on rules or regulations that are clearly written or agreed on; and it is not documented, [and is] mostly dependent on the nature of the relationship between the chief of staff and the minister."

The report said: "This is not an appropriate system ...there is great importance in institutionalizing and anchoring this process." It went on: "In such a framework it is necessary to set standards for the appointment of generals, while retaining flexibility and room for judgment for the decision makers. An agreed arrangement needs to be reached on the degree to which the defense minister needs to be involved in the process of appointments to certain positions with the rank of major general, not merely in terms of authorizing the appointments, and the matter needs to be brought before the cabinet."

The posts the authors of the report are hinting at are that of the coordinator of government activities in the territories (a post primarily answerable to the defense minister ), as well as the posts of deputy chief of staff, head of Military Intelligence and head of the Israel Air Force, all because of their national significance.

The state comptroller found "ambiguity and lack of clarity" in the process for appointing major generals and complains about the lack of clear-cut norms.

The comptroller goes extensively into the strange case of Brigadier General (res ) Mike Herzog and the fact that he was not promoted to major general. Herzog had served as chief of staff for then defense minister Amir Peretz, and was given a letter promising a promotion in two years and the post of coordinator of government activities in the territories. The letter states the decision is supported by then chief of staff Dan Halutz. Because of the promise he received, Herzog decided to return to the army and not take offers in the civilian marketplace.

When Ehud Barak took over from Amir Peretz, he said that he considered the promise "a government commitment that should be kept." In November 2009, however, Herzog's rival, Brigadier General Eitan Dangot, Barak's military secretary, was appointed coordinator of government activities in the territories. Herzog then retired from the IDF.

The comptroller said the case highlights the need to anchor the appointments of senior officers "through an orderly and structured process."

Lindenstrauss recommended changes in legislation on the status of an acting chief of staff when the chief of staff is unable to carry out his duties. Currently, that job goes to the deputy chief of staff and the switch is ill-defined and creates a chain of legal and practical problems. The issue came up during the Second Lebanon War when then chief of staff Dan Halutz was ill for two days and his deputy, Major General Moshe Kaplinsky, had to take his place.

The IDF spokesman said in response that "the report will be studied by the IDF and will serve as an important platform for further work on the issue."

As for the appointment of generals, the spokesman said that the IDF plans to establish a written procedure to be presented to the defense minister for his comments.