In the last few weeks we have been hearing from the Israeli media about the disagreements and the political pressures, which are about to reach a boiling point, regarding the appointment of the next commander of the Israeli Air Force. Apparently, the Prime Minister opposes the appointment of the Chief of Staff’s candidate, the Head of the Planning Division General Amir Eshel, who apparently opposes an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Prime Minister apparently wishes to appoint to the role his military secretary General Yohanan Luker who apparently supports an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. All of this, apparently. Did you get that, Baruch?
A year and a half after the State Comptroller, retired judge Micha Lindenstrauss, submitted his bleak report on senior appointments in the IDF and a year and a half after the Gallant letter affair blew up and stained many at the IDF’s general staff, and about which, to this day, there are no clear answers, it appears that the heads of the political and military establishments did not draw any conclusions, did not learn any lessons and are continuing to behave as if they are dealing with the appointment of the next commander of the air force of Switzerland, not of a country surrounded by enemies which is facing the greatest threat to its existence since the 1948 Independence War.
The mayhem affecting senior appointments in the IDF has probably existed as long as the IDF itself has been in existence. Personally, I closely witnessed the giants’ struggle for the role of Chief of Staff between Generals Hertzel Shafir and Yekutiel Adam, that ended in the unexpected appointment to the role of Rafael Eitan by the then Defence Minister Ezer Weitzman.
The pulling out of the drawer of the friendly fire incident in which General Yohanan Luker was involved when he served as an F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber navigator during the 1982 Lebanon War also raises questions. These are the same questions I had when Air Force officers prevented the appointment of Lieutenant General Ran Pecker to the role of Head of Air Division and by doing this blocked his future appointment to the role of Commander of the Air Force, when they accused him of the murder of a POW during the Six Day War. In both cases, the two officers were cleared of any wrongdoing after lengthy investigations. If anyone has doubts or concerns regarding the appointment of a Lieutenant General or a General to a senior role in the Air Force, where were they when the same officers were appointed to the roles of Squadron Leaders and later Wing Commanders? Did they keep the sensational information in their bellies until they could use it to maximum effect? Where were those who prevented the appointment of General Yoav Gallant to the role of Chief of Staff, when he was appointed to the roles of commander of the Naval Commandos, commander of a division or General of the Southern Command?
The Prime Minister and the Defence Minister must swiftly get their act together. When a dangerous regional war in which the Air Force will have a decisive role is almost upon us, the only consideration they should apply is who is the candidate who has the most suitable experience, skills and proven abilities to lead the Air Force during this war. Any other consideration is an irrelevant diversion for which Israel may pay a high price in the not too distant future.