Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Deposing the General

While the world kept its eyes fixated on the deposition of General Mubarak in a very elaborate coup d'etat, next door, the designated replacement for Israel's Chief of Staff (CoS) has been 'deposed' in what I can only describe as a very elaborate Putsch.

The nomination process of a new Chief of Staff is a difficult process. According to Israeli law, the CoS is appointed by the cabinet on the advice of the defense minister. The first issue is that quite often the prime minister and the defense minister both have very different political considerations, as well as very different relationships with the suitable candidates for the job. Which brings me to the second point. At any given nomination round, there are at least four or five generals who see themselves as suitable. There is the Deputy CoS, the head of MI, the heads of the various regional commands, etc. In addition, often there will be general fulfilling important government roles, such as Chief military advisor to the prime minister, or military attache in Washington that are often decorated generals.

Thus, every nomination round is likely to leave out many highly capable and well respected defense establishment leaders unhappy with you.

The recent round of nomination has been a relatively painful process. Netanyahu, who does not have the background of a high ranking officer, wisely decided to let the defense minister, Ehud Barak go about the nomination process. The conflict was between Barak and Eshkenazi, the incumbent CoS. 

Against Ashkenazi's advice, Barak chose Aluf Yoav Galant, who until recently was the commander of Israel's southern command. Almost immediately a scandal erupted, which was at the time dubbed the `Galant Document` by the media. The essence of it was that Galant has hired a notorious PR firm in order to tarnish his competition and to promote his own nomination. Galant maintained that he had nothing to do with the document, so did the PR firm. 

It was later found that the document was forged by a defense establishment official named Herpaz and re-dubbed the `Herpaz Document`. After that, Galant`s nomination has been fairly smooth, with no significant obstacles from the government.

Except for one little thing: one journalist started delving into a story that claimed that Galant has illegally annexed agricultural land to his own agricultural estate. An official committee headed by a judge cleared his nomination.

Shortly after, the story erupted in full force in the Israeli media. Galant`s private residence was filmed from helicopters at all sorts of angles. In a somewhat ridiculous fashion, the media called it `the Galant Fortress`. Yes, it`s a fairly nice, spacious home. It`s structure seems to sprawl rather than have multiple levels and there is a rather modest inner courtyard. It`s a house not unlike what you will see in any upper middle class neighborhood. With the rather significant exception that this is a small agricultural village in the north.

The appeal to stop his nomination came funnily enough from the Green Movement. Much like the rest of the world, Israel`s green movement is run by a bunch of big money interests who have an army of well meaning drones. In a hasty review by the government`s chief legal advisor (who is also the chief prosecutor), that he will not be able to defend Galant`s nomination in the appeal. Netanyahu and Barak are now left to scramble for a plan B.

I do not know whether the allegations are true and whether the legal advisor`s opinion is well justified. But what is obvious is that someone at high levels refused to accept the nomination of Galant as CoS. The media has played a major role in this elaborate Putsch. 

The government needs to quickly investigate who is behind it and why.

Follow the money!


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