(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
While Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz reiterated this week that he does not plan to resign from the IDF, senior officers have told The Jerusalem Post that they believe Halutz will quit once the final committees of inquiry into the military's performance during the war in Lebanon submit their findings within a month.
With public opinion polls showing 70 percent of Israelis in favor of his resignation and generals from within the IDF asking him to step down, Halutz, these officers claimed, would have a tough time sticking it out if he is blamed for the results of the war in additional investigative reports.
"There will be no choice but for the chief of staff to go, not just because of the failures of the war," former deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan said. "More importantly, because he doesn't command the authority to implement the reforms necessary for the IDF - transforming the Israel Defense Forces into an army that is also the Israel attack forces."
But if Halutz resigns, who will become the next chief of staff? Leading the list of potential successors is Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, currently director general of the Defense Ministry and the former deputy chief of staff. Ashkenazi lost out to Halutz in the race for the top job in the summer of 2005.
Another leading candidate is Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, the current deputy chief of staff. Perceived as a capable infantry officer, Kaplinsky rose through the ranks of the Golani Brigade, which he eventually commanded.
As Halutz's deputy, Kaplinsky is an obvious choice although his active participation in the war - he was appointed Halutz's "representative" in the Northern Command - has tainted him and may have ruined his chances at getting the appointment.
If Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz are looking to clean the stables in the IDF with a new chief of staff, they might prefer to bring back into service a former general, someone like Ashkenazi, who did not play an active role during the war against Hizbullah.
As a former Golani Brigade commander and head of the Northern Command, Ashkenazi has a great deal of experience and time in Lebanon under his belt, certainly an advantage for the next chief of staff who will need to continue dealing with the fragile situation along Israel's northern border.
"Ashkenazi was not a general during the war and has a lot of experience in the North," said one defense official. "He could be the ideal candidate if Halutz steps down."
Another potential candidate for the top job is OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who has been named as next in line to become deputy chief of staff alongside Kaplinsky. Gantz is a well-respected officer and has served as commander of the Northern Command and of the Judea and Samaria Division.
Gantz, however, might also be sidelined due to his involvement in the war and the Ground Forces command's failure to properly prepare infantry and armored battalions for the fighting against Hizbullah.
Ruthie Blum contributed to this report.
An extensive interview with Uzi Dayan will appear in the Jerusalem Post next week