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Fears that the three leading candidates for chief of General Staff will be implicated by the Winograd Committee over the failures of the war in Lebanon increased Thursday, with former generals and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu calling for the appointment of a temporary chief until the committee publishes its interim findings in February.
Two of the three leading candidates - Defense Ministry director-general Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz - served as OC Northern Command in the past five years. The third candidate - Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky - was appointed Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz's "representative in the North" during the recent war against Hizbullah.
"There should be a temporary appointment until the Winograd Committee publishes its report and we find out who is blamed for the war and who is not," Maj.-Gen. (res.) Danny Rothschild, president of the Council for Peace and Security, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday. "All the candidates mentioned were commanders in some capacity in the North in the past five years and might be named in the Winograd report. It is better to wait."
During his meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday, Netanyahu urged him to wait a few weeks and consider additional candidates.
Netanyahu told Olmert there were precedents for making a temporary appointment, citing that of Maj.-Gen. Mordechai Gur following the resignation of Lt.-Gen. David Elazar from the post of chief of General Staff in 1974.
Sources in the defense establishment on Thursday played down reports that a retired general such as Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ilan Biran would be appointed to replace Halutz. Biran has been out of the IDF for more than a decade and his return, the sources said, would create more instability.
A well-respected officer, Biran served as CEO of Bezeq and director-general of the Defense Ministry. He served in the IDF for more than 30 years in a series of senior positions, including OC Central Command, head of the IDF Technology and Logistics Directorate, and commander of the Givati Brigade.
Biran met with Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday night and said he was not interested in the job, but would again serve as director-general of the Defense Ministry if the position was vacated by Ashkenazi.
Another retired general whose name has been floated as a possible candidate, although with very low chances, is Maj.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Yanai, former head of IDF Planing Division, OC Southern Command and commander of an armored division.