A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Galant Affair

Israel has had a potential scandal simmering for the past couple of weeks that now appears to be in full eruption, raising questions about the Israel Defense Forces' leadership, the relationship between the Armed Forces and the Defense Ministry, and civil-military relations generally. Basic background is here.

Israel's Channel 2 revealed the existence of a document purporting to be a memo from a public relations firm on how o boost the candidacy of Southern Command GOC Gen. Yoav Galant (left) as the next IDF Chief of Staff. The whole thing is linked to bad blood between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and current IDF Chief Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, whose term Barak declined to extend. Galant and the head of the PR firm whose leterhead was used have both said that the document was a forgery. Now Prime Minister Netanyahu has stepped in, amid charges that senior figures in the IDF may have been behind the alleged forgery, and with editorialists comparing it to the forgeries used in the Lavon affair of the 1950s and lamenting the declining reputation of the IDF. Ashkenazi apparently had the document for weeks before informing the police; who is actually suspected of the forgery is not clear.

The IDF has had a rough few years since the 2006 Lebanon War. The glory days of 1967 are clearly long gone, and one of the key unifying institutions of the Israeli state is looking a bit worn. While Barak is so far portraying himself as the victim of the current affair, it also could cast a shadow over his own tenure in the Defense Ministry. Although Galant appears to be the victim of a forgery, the selection of the next IDF Chief will surely come under renewed scrutiny.

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