Combat veteran to be new IDF chief
Former Golani leader is picked to head army after resignation of Dan Halutz
IN A rare show of unity, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz this week agreed to appoint Gabi Ashkenazi as the IDF’s next chief of general staff. He replaces Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, who resigned last week in the wake of the failures of last summer’s war in Lebanon.
Mr Ashkenazi is the first soldier to be appointed as chief of general staff from outside the rank of serving officers. A retired major-general, Mr Ashkenazi is currently the defence ministry’s director-general. He left the IDF in 2005 after losing out to General Halutz in the battle for the position of Israel’s top soldier.
The appointment of a chief of general staff falls under the responsibility of the defence minister, who then brings his suggestion to the prime minister, and then the cabinet, for approval. Due to the strained relations between Mr Olmert and Mr Peretz, there were fears that the choice of a new army chief would turn into a political struggle.
Indeed, at the same time as Mr Peretz held meetings with possible contenders for the position, Mr Olmert also held a series of well-publicised consultations with former senior IDF officers to garner their opinion. But on Monday night, the two men quickly agreed that Mr Ashkenazi was the best candidate.
Both Mr Olmert and Mr Peretz, as well as Mr Ashkenazi, called on MajGen Moshe Kaplinsky, the deputy chief of general staff and also a serious contender to replace Gen Halutz, to stay on in the army.
Gen Kaplinsky had withdrawn his candidacy for the post on Sunday night, criticising the decision to replace Gen Halutz immediately, and not wait for the interim findings of the Winograd Committee into the Lebanon war.
Both Gen Kaplinsky, in his role as deputy chief of general staff during the war, and Mr Ashkenazi, commander of the Northern Front during Israel’s 2000 Lebanon withdrawal, could face criticism from the committee, although this is thought less likely in Mr Ashkenazi’s case. If Gen Kaplinsky does decide to leave, he could be in line to replace Meir Dagan, who has served for five years as the head of Mossad.
Mr Ashkenazi’s appointment is due to be brought to the cabinet for its formal approval either this Sunday or on Sunday week.
Gabi Ashkenazi will leave the defence ministry to become Israel’s top soldier