The Boss Whisperer

The bickering between Olmert and Gilad, each of whom deserves the other, was staged for the audience almost like the Iran-Iraq War, but it reflects a fundamental flaw in the government's work.

While Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to imitate Barack Obama, who himself imitated Abraham Lincoln, in forming a "team of rivals" with Tzipi Livni playing the part of Hillary Clinton, a new tragic hero has emerged among Israel's defense establishment, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, an ambush victim of outgoing-in-just-a-moment Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert is one of a kind. With an indictment hanging over him, an indictment that remains frozen pending a hearing, he is assuming the role of accuser in submitting a complaint to an official subordinate to him and who owes him his job, Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander. The complaint is against an official subordinate to his political rival, the defense minister.

To add insult to injury, the Israel Defense Forces' General Staff is preparing a farewell party for the country's top criminal suspect, parting gifts included. Gabi Ashkenazi has got it all wrong. It is incumbent on the army to obey the civilian leadership, even if they have transgressed, to the point of sycophancy.

The bickering between Olmert and Gilad, each of whom deserves the other, was staged for the audience almost like the Iran-Iraq War, but it reflects a fundamental flaw in the government's work. Netanyahu knows this. After all, he was involved in these intrigues as the prime minister who dispatched personal envoys (like Yitzhak Molcho) and citizens of foreign countries (Ronald Lauder), not always with the knowledge of his foreign and defense ministers.

There is nothing new here. Moshe Sharett grew resentful when David Ben-Gurion bypassed the foreign ministry by way of the defense ministry's director general, Shimon Peres. When Peres was defense minister, prime minister and foreign minister, he had his own emissaries. There are many other examples.

You can save your tears for Gilad. Over the years, this abrasive and opinionated intelligence officer became the mouthpiece of his masters, especially if that master's name was Ehud Barak, whom Gilad served as an aide when Barak was head of Military Intelligence, and spokesman when Barak was chief of staff. He was also the head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau under Barak. As the IDF's spokesman, he dominated everyone under him, including the current person in that office, and he threatened to deploy the military police to prevent a journalist's entry to a press briefing convened by Barak after the failed rescue attempt of Nachshon Wachsman in 1994. As a skeptical, blunt and forceful senior official, he was loyal to his defense minister, whoever it was, including Shaul Mofaz, Amir Peretz and, for now, Barak.

Gilad is the boss whisperer. Whenever Peretz approached the stairwell for a meeting, there was Gilad, above and beyond his job description, in tow while offering a warning on what awaited. As the spokesman for chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, he argued with MI head Uri Saguy. The previous chief of staff, Moshe Levy, was asked by Lipkin-Shahak to look into deficiencies in the work of the IDF Spokesman. Though he didn't search for long, he certainly found them.

This did not become an obstacle to Gilad's reaching the rank of general when he was promoted to coordinator of government activities in the territories, although he fell short of his dream to be appointed MI chief. He considered a job with the Mossad's intelligence arm, though he ultimately agreed to Mofaz's offer to head the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau, subordinate to the defense minister and not the director general, an arrangement that worsened tensions in the defense establishment.

Perhaps Olmert, in his eternal pose as "the civilian echelon," and who is pitted against the technocrats (former accountant general Yaron Zelekha serves as a reminder), is expressing his envy. If only he had a relentless, devoted aide like Gilad, his Gilad would have battered his rivals, chief among them Barak. For Netanyahu, this is a well-timed reminder. The troubles do not end with the swearing-in of politicians in their new posts if the job functions of aides and assistants are not clearly defined.