Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, the prime minister’s choice to be the next IDF chief of staff, has an almost insurmoutable obstacle in the path to his assuming his new job. He stole (or ‘appropriated’ if you prefer niceties) government land and annexed it to his home, lied about it, and now has lost the support of the government legal advisor who would defend him before the Supreme Court, if he could be defended. An Israeli NGO, Yesh Gvul, brought suit in the Supreme Court claiming Galant wasn’t fit to assume his job because of his unethical behavior. Most Israelis believed this issue was a mere fly in the ointment. The land theft had been publicly exposed many months earlier and it didn’t appear to harm his career then.
But that was until government lawyers starting poring over Galant’s testimony in court about the land and how it ended up in his hands. Then he became indefensible.
But as Gideon Levy writes, they appear about to reach the right decision but for the wrong reasons. It’s ironic that of all the unethical things Galant has done in the IDF, this was the one likely to do him in. Galant grabbed a piece of land for himself, true. But what are a few dunams compared to the vast amount of territory Israel has stolen from the Palestinians? Let’s not lose the forest for the trees.
Not to mention Galant’s role as commander of IDF forces during Operation Cast Lead, whose second bloody anniversary was commemorated last month. The bloody hand that killed 1,400 Gazans, 1,100 of them civilians, was about to be raised in a salute to the nation. The officer responsible for the war crimes committed then, for killing 250 unarmed police cadets, for killing the Samounis, for raining white phosphorus. That’s the reason Galant didn’t deserve his promotion. Not a case of petty corruption that characterizes the life of just about every Israeli politician, general or CEO.
One thing we can say though is that Galant’s brazen act of theft and his attempted coverup characterize public life for just about any Israeli of power or means. The way to the top is paved by deals and lies and payoffs. Chiefs of staff are no different.
Israel, of course, has its priorities screwed up. But you know what? I’ll take the right outcome for the wrong reasons anyday. Cynics, though, will say: what does it matter whether the new chief of staff is Yoav Galant or Benny Gantz, one of the other contenders? Aren’t they all the same? Perhaps yes. But to me opposition to this appointment is like the way you play defense in basketball. You harrass your opponent every way you can. You try to deflect him from his game. You do everything you can to stop him. Every little thing helps. You just don’t know what will be the decisive act that does him in.
The choice of Galant by Netanyahu indicates terrible weakness in the vetting process. In this country, the FBI and others go through the backgrounds of candidates for high government positions with a fine tooth comb. Those who nominate or appoint them want to know what they may face when the promotion is announced publicly. It’s a sign of how much consideration is given to such ethical issues that a known flagrant incident from Galant’s past wasn’t considered sufficient to disqualify him for the job. And poor Galant has the rug pulled out from under him only two weeks before he was to be sworn in for the plummiest job any IDF officer could secure.
Kudos to Yesh Gvul on their expected victory in this case. I’ll take such a win any way I can get it.