TEL AVIV (Aug. 19)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, responding to criticism over changes in the Israel Defense Force command, said Tuesday that the recent moves may have been carried out too rapidly. Chief of Staff Moshe Levy and Rabin, as the minister responsible for the armed forces, have come in for considerable criticism for a series of shuffles of senior officers from positions they had assumed just a few months before. The changes have reportedly caused widespread discontent in the IDF General Command and Rabin has been asked to appear before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee to explain the rapid moves.
Acknowledging that as Defense Minister he carries responsibility for IDF command changes “whether good or bad,” Rabin said in a radio interview that the recent developments should nonetheless be placed in the “right proportion.”
“No Israeli soldier received as much as a single scratch, no operation failed, and I don’t be lieve that because of this round of appointments anything happened to the IDF in the operational field which could harm its strength,” Rabin said.
Under the recent internal shuffling at the IDF command, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Dan Shomron, who has reportedly been promised Levy’s post when the Chief of Staff retires next April, agreed to give up his job in favor of Maj. Gen. Amir Drori.
Drori, who was reportedly promised the Deputy Chief of Staff position, will thus have a good chance of becoming Chief of Staff in four years, when Shomron’s term would end. In the meantime, Shomron will apparently wait until April without any official position.
BASIS FOR THE DISCONTENT
Israel Radio commentators have said that discontent brought about by the changes stems from the rapidity with which senior officers are being appointed to positions only to be re-appointed elsewhere a short time later.
Drori was appointed head of the new Ground Forces Command (GFC), consisting of armor, infantry, engineers and artillery, just a few months ago. It is regarded as a very difficult and responsible post, and Drori barely had time to settle in. But the reported Chief of Staff appointee is said to have insisted that a promise given to him in the past be kept.
Rabin said in Tuesday’s interview that as a rule, the appointment of Chief of Staff should be made at the time the position is being vacated.
“I never considered that a new Chief of Staff should be appointed eight or ten months before the date set for the replacement of the incumbent Chief of Staff. I don’t think this is to the army’s benefit,” Rabin said. The Defense Minister said he would “attempt to prevent such occurrences in the future.”
ACKNOWLEDGES BAD MANAGEMENT
Taking Drori’s place at GFC is Maj. Gen. Uri Saguey, who was appointed head of southern command only a few months ago. The Chief of Staff has acknowledged that it was not good management to move Drori and Saguey so soon, but maintained that an experienced and authoritative general was needed for the Ground Forces Command and that Saguey was the man for the job.
“In a month, everybody will see I made a wise decision,” Levy said at a news conference last week.
Saguey’s place is to be taken by Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai who, according to published reports, was unjustly accused of implication in the killing of two terrorists taken alive in the recapture of a hijacked bus near Gaza, which sparked the recent scandal over the alleged role in the affair of Shin Bet, the internal security services.
Mordechai was later cleared of the charges, but received a reprimand after admitting he had beaten the two men with a pistol to gain immediate information about the presence of booby traps left on the bus, from which the rescued passengers were being evacuated. The captured but wounded terrorists were alive when handed over to the security service personnel.