Analysis: Bad time to replace top security chiefs?

Changing of guard at IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence to come all at once, at a particularly sensitive juncture.

April 8, 2010 01:23
2 minute read.
Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

meir dagan 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

By this time next year, the Israeli defense establishment will look very different.

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will have stripped off his uniform and returned to civilian life after completing his term at the army’s helm in February 2011.

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Mossad chief Meir Dagan is scheduled to step down in June of this year, after having his term repeatedly extended. It is unlikely that his term will be extended again.

Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin will have one foot out the door with his term, following a one-year extension, slated to end in May 2011. There is also Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, the oldest member of the General Staff, who is scheduled to retire from the IDF this summer after having his term extended by a year as well.

These changes will, without a doubt, shake up the top defense echelons for several months. And their timing is problematic: tension is on the rise the North with Hizbullah as well as in the South with Hamas, and by next year, according to Israeli assessments, Iran will be capable of developing a nuclear bomb.

All four officials have worthy potential successors. Ashkenazi is likely to be succeeded by either current Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who has already held three positions in the General Staff, or OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, said to be Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s favorite and the officer credited with the success of Operation Cast Lead last year.

In the Shin Bet, Diskin will likely be replaced by one of two candidates – Y., the former deputy head of the agency who will have spent a year at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, or D., the current deputy. It is possible, though, that one of the generals who loses the race for the chief of General Staff will receive the Shin Bet as a consolation prize.

Dagan has held on to his job for almost nine years, during which a number of his deputies have stepped down out of frustration. One of them, T., is a possible candidate, as is Hagai Hadas, a former top Mossad official who now serves as the prime minister’s point man in the negotiations with Hamas for the release of Gilad Schalit.

While all of these officers and officials have years of experience in their respective positions, there is no doubt that their appointments will shake up the system. A new chief of general staff means new heads for the different commands, particularly in the South and the North, Israel’s most volatile borders.

While Barak had every right to decide not to extend Ashkenazi’s term, the fact that all four of Israel’s security chiefs will be leaving their jobs within just a few months of each other points to a possible lack of long-term strategic planning by Israel’s leaders.

Barak, though, might not be that concerned. After all, he does not plan to go anywhere.   

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