Defense Minister Moshe (Bogi) Ya'alon did not make do on Tuesday with settling scores with Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Speaking at a briefing with military correspondents ahead of the Jewish New Year, Ya'alon used the occasion to make it clear to Major General (res.) Yoav Galant that he will not be returning to active service in the Israel Defense Forces as chief of staff on his watch.
"The next chief of staff will be appointed from within the ranks of the IDF, from among the generals in uniform," the defense minister stated.
Galant lost out in the race for the post of chief of staff once before, after his appointment in 2011 was retracted in the wake of Attorney General Yehuda Weisntein position paper on the real-estate scandal in which the major general was embroiled.
And Ya'alon on Tuesday looked like a man who was just waiting for the chance to festively announce that Galant won't be the next chief of staff either – and not even a candidate for the position. As far as Ya'alon is concerned, Galant until now has been nothing more than a self-appointed candidate; as published in Yedioth Ahronoth last week, Ya'alon had no intentions at all of even calling him in to discuss the option.
The defense minister's intense dislike for Galant dates back to the days when the latter served as military secretary to former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who denied Ya'alon a fourth year in office as chief of staff and passed on the baton to Dan Halutz.
On Tuesday, Ya'alon promised that the process of appointing a successor to the current chief of staff will not resemble "the farce of the previous selection of the chief of staff." He explained to reporters that the process would be an orderly one in which he would consult with former defense ministers and chiefs of staff, and then with the prime minister, too. Thereafter, he said, he would put his candidate up for cabinet approval.
The appointment, he added, would go into effect after the holidays, and not before Attorney General Weinstein, too, offered his position on the matter.
"We will be open to listen to any complaints about candidates, and we will consult with the attorney general about potential candidates," the defense minister said. "And I will present the best candidate for approval."
The defense minister's official statement comes as a significant boost to the chances of the current deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, of becoming the country's No. 1 soldier.
Nevertheless, no one foresees a clean race to the post: Galant supporters are expected to launch a public campaign against Eizenkot's appointment from an ethical perspective, and attempt to pressure the prime minister into altering the decree.
It appears that from their point of view, even if Eizenkot was cleared by the police in the Harpaz scandal, and was also cleared by Weinstein ahead of his appointment as deputy chief of staff, they intend to do all in their power to prevent Eizenkot from walking away unscathed from the Turkel Commission, which is investigating the Gaza flotilla raid.
On Tuesday, Ya'alon alluded to the issue, saying: "I am not aware of any criminal investigation against any of the candidates."
Eizenkot has been Ya'alon's preferred candidate from the start; and barring any mishaps and surprises, he can begin preparing to take up the position in just under five months.
The man destined to become his deputy is GOC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, whose stint up north comes to an end next week. Eizenkot's relationship with GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman may be far better than his relationship with Golan, but the fact that Turgeman hasn't been in his current post for long, coupled with Ya'alon's support for Golan, is expected to tip the scales in favor of the Northern Command chief.
If Eizenkot falls out of the race, the next candidate in line is the man who Eizenkot succeeded as deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh. And in the event that Naveh, too, is ruled out for this or the other reason, Golan will be bumped up into the post, without having ever served as deputy chief of staff.
Ya'alon used the briefing on Tuesday with the military correspondents not only to settle scores, but also to voice support for his personnel, and Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi in particular. While Shin Bet Security Service officials have claimed that Hamas intended to go to war in July, Ya'alon clearly sided with MI's assessment that the organization was dragged into Operation Protective Edge.
"Military Intelligence lived up to expectations and provided the expected goods to the political echelon and the senior military echelon, as well as to the tactical echelon," the defense minister said. "There was no warning about a war in July because Hamas wasn't thinking about war in July. We had marked the summer as a period of potential war due to a coming together of several events, including the halt in the political negotiations."
Like for Military Intelligence, Ya'alon also had words of praise for the ground forces' readiness for the war – in complete contrast to earlier warnings from IDF officers on all levels about deficiencies in equipment and training among both the regular forces and the reservists.
"The ground forces came prepared for Operation Protective Edge," he said.
In other words, either the officers are lying, or Ya'alon isn't telling the truth.
As the man who, as chief of staff, sent a rusty IDF into the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Ya'alon should be expected to show a little more responsibility, caution and readiness ahead the third one.