The barrage of words and photos we’ve been fed with in recent days over the “Galant document” affair diverted public attention away from the essence: What is the proper profile for Israel’s next chief of staff? It appears that the defense minister’s endorsement of Major-General Yoav Galant does not provide a proper response for Israel’s future and current needs; hence, the government would do well to select another candidate for this important post.
What is expected of an army chief? The army’s commander must possess a combination of values and qualities: A person with strategic vision; high-level professional abilities pertaining to preparing and utilizing the army (if and when needed); leadership ability, and the ability to serve as a personal example for his subordinates and for the whole of Israel.
That is, the army chief post is not merely professional in nature, but also strategic and leadership-oriented. This is always true, and at this time, ahead of the coming New Year and as we are being informed of the launching of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, this is doubly true.
Major-General Galant’s worldview, which espouses military activism, as his position in favor if extending the Cast Lead war showed, is incommensurate with the diplomatic move embarked on by the prime minister at this time on the State of Israel’s behalf.
Indeed, it is the government and not the army chief that is responsible for the policy of peace and security here. Indeed, the chief of staff is entrusted with presenting military assessments, while the civilian leadership is tasked with taking the decisions. However, the history pertaining to conflict resolution and successful negotiations that led to diplomatic agreements shows that the above is merely an illusion. In reality, it is impossible to separate worldviews from the formulation of assessments.
New selection process needed
The army chief is not “just a soldier,” but rather, he’s the military’s chief strategist. A military leader who believes that the preferable way for implementing security is force, and whose level of trust in our neighbors is low may present deceptive, one-dimensional assessments to decision-makers. A military leader who does not view a military response as the last resort only, may hinder decision-makers in making the right assessments. The IDF, as its name suggests, is meant to only serve as Israel’s DEFENSE force!
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has presented a clear vision in recent years: Genuine long-term security for Israel would only be achieved through treaties of peace, security, and compromise with the Palestinians and with Arab states, while joining forces with moderate Muslim states and isolating radical Islamic states. This is the security and peace strategy outlined by Yitzhak Rabin, and as one who espouses it, Barak should have recommended an army chief that shares this strategy.
We shall therefore hope that the major task of choosing an army chief faced by the government will be premised on the above strategic basis.
To paraphrase the words of our first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, every Hebrew mother (and father!) should know that their sons and daughters, while performing their mandatory military service, are entrusted in both level-headed and professional hands. There is no doubt that we need a bold army chief, but more importantly, we need a level-headed army chief.
On a side-note, against the backdrop of the commotion we’ve seen the past two weeks: The government, in conjunction with the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, must formulate a new army chief selection process that is more public and professional, similarly to other government posts. Leaving the decision in the hands of one person, the defense minister, is apparently the explanation for the negative side-effects we’ve been witnessing for decades now every time a new army chief is appointed.
Dr. Anat Maor, a public policy lecturer at the Rupin Academic Center and at the Open University, is a former Knesset member.