Turkel Committee to Vet Gantz's Appointment as IDF Chief of Staff Today

Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant withdrew his petition to the High Court of Justice against the government's decision to rescind his appointment to the post.

The Turkel Committee, which vets senior civil service appointments, will meet today to discuss the appointment of Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz as the Israel Defense Forces' 20th chief of staff.

Gabi Ashkenazi and Shimon Peres - Tomer Appelbaum - 7.2.2011
Tomer Appelbaum

Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant withdrew his petition to the High Court of Justice against the government's decision to rescind his appointment to the post.

The committee, headed by retired judge Jacob Turkel, will meet at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will appear before it, as will Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and they will explain their choice of Gantz.

Tomorrow, Gantz will appear before the committee, as will outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. The committee's job is to examine issues of personal integrity and whether the candidate has any business conflicts of interests.

As far as is known, there are no issues in Gantz's past that might foil his appointment. In 2004-05, an IDF investigation took place into the excessive benefits given to several generals. But Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit ultimately concluded that Gantz had done nothing illegal or improper when he received reimbursement for moving costs incurred when he was appointed GOC Northern Command.

Another issue that has resurfaced in recent days is that of Madhat Yusuf, a Border Police officer who was wounded at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus in October 2000, shortly after the second intifada began, and bled to death when the IDF delayed rescuing him.

At that time, Gantz had just been made commander of the IDF forces in the West Bank, and Yusuf's family blamed him for the decision to delay the rescue effort. But the matter was investigated by the IDF and raised again in petitions to the High Court, and no substantive flaw was found in Gantz's conduct.

In recent days, Yusuf's family has considered petitioning the High Court against Gantz's appointment. But the chances that this incident would lead either the Turkel Committee or the court to nix the appointment currently appear to be minimal.

Another allegation that surfaced yesterday involves the construction of a porch in the backyard of Gantz's home in Rosh Ha'ayin, allegedly without a permit.

Gantz has filled out a detailed questionnaire sent to him by the Turkel Committee in advance of his appearance before it. If there are no special problems, the committee may announce its approval of the appointment tomorrow afternoon.

If so, the appointment will be brought before the cabinet for approval on Sunday, and the next day, February 14, a ceremony will be held to formally transfer command of the army. February 14 is supposed to be Ashkenazi's last day in office.

But the Turkel Committee has been criticized for its rapid approval of the Galant appointment six months ago. In particular, its members were accused of not sufficiently probing Galant's alleged takeover of state lands in his hometown, the affair that ultimately led to his appointment being canceled.

Yesterday, Galant ended his fight against the cancelation of his appointment when he withdrew his petition to the High Court, a day after having filed it. However, he will presumably continue his public fight to clear himself of the allegations against him.

Galant apparently made up his mind to pull the petition after concluding that he stood little chance of altering the situation - especially since on Sunday, the court rejected his request for an injunction staying the cancelation of his appointment. His decision to fight the matter in court also upset many of his supporters, who believed he should bring the matter to an end.

Meanwhile, Gantz is frantically preparing to assume the duties of chief of staff. The necessary preparations include appointing staff for his office. But despite the rushed transition, the General Staff expects Gantz's appointment to restore stability, and no generals are expected to quit or be replaced in the near future.