A Galant Act of Terror
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Succession wars are the norm in the IDF, leading often to unexpected choices. Its actual commander was very unusual. Gabi Ashkenazi was born in Moshav Hagor, and later on he joined the Golani Brigade. An infantry brigade, it is known as a Mizrahi Jews stronghold. On the other side is the Paratroopers Brigade – an Ashkenazi quasi-monopoly to such an extent that its commando unit is mockingly known as “The Blonds.” Later on, Gabi Ashkenazi became a Major General and left the army in 2005. As a Mizrahi he had no chance of becoming the army’s Lieutenant General and general commander. Then something happened. In 2006, Israel was utterly defeated in Lebanon. The army commander back then was Dan Halutz, an air force officer. It is unusual for a “blue” (someone from the air force in Hebrew slang) to reach such a position. Halutz held back the “greens” (ground forces) during the operation because he didn’t trust them and sent the air force ahead. It was a disaster. The fact that in the morning of the attack he found time to contact his broker and sell his stocks in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange didn’t help to his public image. He left humiliated. It was time for a major change. Halutz – as his predecessors – was Ashkenazi. In 2007, Amir Peretz – then Minister of Defense – called Gabi Ashkenazi back to the army as Chief of Staff.
However, as his predecessor, Ashkenazi committed a major sin. At the end of February 2008, Ashkenazi commanded Operation Hot Winter during which the IDF attacked Gaza. The fighting ended in a truce between Israel and Hamas. At the end of 2008 and in early 2009 Ashkenazi commanded Operation Cast Lead. The last was investigated by the UN and lead to the definition of Israel as a terrorist organization in article 1690 of the Goldstone Report, accepted by the UN Human Rights Commission on October 16, 2009.
Thus there was no chance for Ashkenazi to get an extra year in his snug job, despite this being almost a norm. Until Ashkenzai, the IDF commander was chosen for three years and almost automatically given one or two extra years at the post as recognition for his lifelong effort. Ashkenazi was chosen for four years – as the custom from now on would be – but then denied an extra-year. Such an event would have been seen as a support of his role in Cast Lead, and thus was out of question given the political disaster caused by the event.
Instead, Ehud Barak – Israel’s Minister of Defense – chose Yoav Galant to replace Ashkenazi in February 2011. Despite Barak’s weakness, on September 5, 2010, the Israeli government approved his nomination of Yoav Galant as the next Chief of Staff. This is a typical example of the “yes-and-no” doublethink, Newspeak, 1984-styled Israeli politics. Ashkenazi lost his world in Cast Lead, but Galant made his world there.
In the far past, Galant commanded the Shayetet 13, the unit that massacred Turkish civilians in the Gaza’s Freedom Flotilla event. In 2005, Galant was appointed as commander of the IDF Southern Command, which includes Gaza Strip. He commanded Operation Cast Lead and this role put him on the lead of the candidate’s list to be the next Chief of Staff. As a matter of fact, he is no less responsible than Ashkenazi on the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the IDF there, but in our strange world, Galant’s career was spared. A Galant Act of Terror passed almost unnoticed. For sure, the next won’t.
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