Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday as part of a series of meetings to decide on the most suitable candidate to succeed Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz as IDF chief of General Staff. According to Army Radio, Netanyahu said during the meeting that "we will stand behind any chief of staff who is chosen. It's got to be done, and we need to take our time in order to carry out the process in best possible way." Analyses:
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Earlier Thursday, Olmert met with Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who said he believed the prime minister and defense minister should confer on the subject before recommending a candidate for Halutz's replacement.
"The chief of staff needs to be appointed by the government according to the defense minister's recommendations," Army Radio quoted Peres as saying. "It's inconceivable that the defense minister would not do this unanimously with the prime minister. As soon as the two of them agree, they need to bring it to the Knesset. My belief is that they will reach an agreement."
Olmert was expected to meet later in the day with former prime minister Ehud Barak, Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Halutz announced his resignation after midnight on Tuesday in light of the findings of several dozen internal military probes into the handling of the summer's war in Lebanon.
The candidates for his replacement include Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ilan Biran.
Olmert said Wednesday that the process of selecting a new chief of staff would be completed as soon as possible, with the Prime Minister's Office expecting that a new chief of staff would be named either by the end of next week, or the beginning of the following week.
Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.