Déjà Vu at the General Staff

Since the next deputy chief of staff is very likely to be the next chief of staff too, the government must intervene now in the first appointment, to avoid facing a fait accompli when it comes to the second one.

Four Israel Defense Forces generals are competing for the position of deputy chief of staff. Two of them are sitting at home wasting their time and the government's money. A third is about to return from an assignment abroad, although it has not yet been decided when his replacement will arrive. A fourth insists on leaving his current job after two years. The entire situation is highly reminiscent of the appointment of the deputy chief of staff in 2009 and of the chief of staff in 2010-2011. In some cases with the same protagonists, but not always in the same positions.

The two unemployed candidates, who were the heads of the Northern and Central commands respectively, are Gadi Eizenkot and Avi Mizrahi. In the United States, Gadi Shamni is packing up; his designated successor as military attache in Washington, Ya'akov Ayash, will leave his job as head of the Operations Directorate only when the future becomes clear. The fourth candidate is Tal Russo, the head of Southern Command. Perhaps a surprising candidate, but Russo, who has been a general for six years, four of them on the General Staff as head of the Operations Directorate, is no less ready to become deputy chief of staff than was Shaul Mofaz 15 years ago.

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, who last week completed half a term, wants Eizenkot. That's why anyone who doesn't want Eizenkot will demand another two or three names from Gantz, in order to extend the list and to choose another name from it, as camouflage for a veto against the person they don't want to receive the honor.

Although the chief of staff is not a pope and the generals are not cardinals, if there were to be a secret vote around the General Staff table, Eizenkot would probably receive the support of most of those seated there. The assumption is that the next deputy chief of staff will have an advantage when it comes to the appointment of the 21st chief of staff, who is supposed to assume his position in February 2014 - although last time around Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who wanted to appoint a major general who was not a deputy chief of staff, said that being a deputy is not a necessary condition.

According to Barak's method in his unsuccessful 2010 version, the defense minister will announce this coming spring that Gantz will not get the fourth year in his post that he didn't request. In the summer Barak will interview the candidates, genuinely or as a clumsy maneuver, and will announce half a year in advance who will be the general who - like the defense minister's previous candidate, Yoav Galant - will go through the triple filter of Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon ("and another regional council head from the Labor Party" ), the Turkel committee for vetting such senior appointments, and the government.

That is on the dual assumption that Knesset elections won't interfere with the timetable, and that the government will continue to leave the most important appointment in the country in the hands of a person who tripped it up with that very appointment. Since the next deputy chief of staff is very likely to be the next chief of staff too, the government must intervene now in the first appointment, to avoid facing a fait accompli when it comes to the second one.

That should also be the conclusion drawn from the state comptroller's report on the appointment of the 20th chief of staff, but that report has been lost. Instead of hastening to publish the chapters that are relevant to the future, as a continuation of his previous important report on the procedure for appointing major generals, former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss was drawn into an affair that is enlightening in itself: How Barak's attack on former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi provided an opening for Boaz Harpaz's involvement in the affair, in which Harpaz is accused of forging a document to influence the appointment of Ashkenazi's successor as chief of staff. The new comptroller, Joseph Shapira, is the type who prefers calm to incitement, and also tends to return to the traditional role of criticism rather than ruling among those being criticized.

The fact that Barak is waiting for Lindenstrauss' report - which will also be at least partly written by Lindenstrauss' successor, Shapira - to see whether Eizenkot is found suitable for the appointment is a transparent excuse. Far more than Eizenkot, Barak himself is a subject of the comptroller's review. According to the same logic, Barak's involvement in approving, or preventing, any position in the IDF, is inappropriate. If Barak rejects Eizenkot's appointment, the Harpaz connection will only be the emotional part of the rejection. The rationalistic motivation will be the desire not to appoint a deputy chief of staff, and afterwards a chief of staff, who is sufficiently courageous and reasoned to oppose an attack on Iran.