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

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