Friday, February 04, 2011

Galant, and the morality of our leaders

The saga of the Israeli Chief of Staff goes on and on. It is upsetting to see the real bitterness, infighting, intense rivalry and interpersonal acrimony in the leadership echelons of the army/Ministry of Defense that this “story” has revealed. However, in the wake of this turmoil, I would like to make a couple of comments that regard morality in public life.

First, this episode demonstrates that Israel is looking to have a leadership which is honest and ethical, upholding high standards. After a corrupt presidents and prime ministers, we are embarrassed by our leaders. Israeli society has had enough of corruption. I am glad that the primary question that is being asked about anyone who rises to high office relates to his ethical standing. This is a good sign.

But I also feel that Yoav Galant has been dealt a raw deal. Yes – his house or “estate” raises serious worries, if only about ostentatious style and extraordinary size. But on the other hand, even if he filed a request for a building permit falsely, even if he did seize some public land, I am not sure this is reason to reject him, especially after he has already been appointed.I asked an Israeli judge about this last week what he thought about the scandal. He said: “They are holding him up to a standard of angels; but we are all human beings, and we all make mistakes.” (link, link) Yoav Galant has been hailed by his soldiers and colleagues as an impressive professional who upholds a high ethical standard, and is infused by his ideological Zionist mission. He sounds pretty good to me. If he had lapse of honesty regarding the legality of his home, so be it. I am not sure that this is a general statement about his integrity and honesty.

I would go further. We are dealing with powerful men. There is a reason that you and I are not the Chief of Staff. The sense of responsibility, the willingness to take chances, the tenacity to rise to the top – these are things that are essential if one is to rise to the top of an organization like Tzahal. Like in the case of Police Chief Danino, (link) anyone who thinks that you can get there without putting a foot wrong here or there, is mistaken. He who dares wins, but in that daring, you sometimes do create enemies, and make errors. So in this case, from what we know, I still think he would have done a good, honest job.

Lastly - I believe that the way that this has been publically juggled between the government, the State Comptroller, Attorney General, and Supreme Court, and inflated by a sensatialist media is outrageous. It should have been dealt with in a simpler and more discreet fashion. I also wonder whether someone is targeting Galant. After the forged letter, and now this episode, does someone have an inappropriate interest to see Galant outside the position of Chief of Staff?

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