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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz released a joint statement Monday night announcing their decision to appoint Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi to the post of IDF chief of General Staff.
The announcement was made following a rare joint meeting between the two at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem.
Peretz plans to bring the appointment to the cabinet for approval Sunday after Ashkenazi is approved by a judicial committee headed by former judge Ya'acov Terkel. Ashkenazi will become the 19th chief of staff and the first from the Golani Brigade. He will replace Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, who announced his resignation last Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Peretz praised the other leading candidate, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, during a meeting of high-ranking reserve officers.
"You are an officer and a gentleman with integrity," Peretz told Kaplinsky. "And after speaking with you today I can say that the Israeli people have someone they can count on."
Peretz and Olmert called on Kaplinsky to remain in the IDF. Predictions are that he will remain in his post for the next few months and will then take up the post of OC Military Intelligence in place of Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin. If Kaplinsky decides to resign, his name has been mentioned as a potential candidate to replace head of the Mossad Meir Dagan, who will complete five years in the post in November.
Ashkenazi, 52, served as deputy chief of staff until 2005 and retired from the IDF after Halutz was appointed chief of staff. He has also previously served as OC Northern Command, commander of the Golani Brigade and head of the IDF Operations Branch. During the war in Lebanon, he was called back into service, this time as director-general of the Defense Ministry under Peretz.
Speaking at the reservist conference, Halutz said that he was leaving the IDF "without any regret or resentment and would make himself available to anyone who needed help in marching the military forward."
Meanwhile Monday, Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia ruled against granting a temporary injunction requested by the Movement for Quality Government which petitioned the High Court earlier in the day, calling on it to order Olmert, Peretz and the government not to appoint a new chief of staff until the Winograd Committee submitted its interim report on the second Lebanese war.
The government commissioned the committee to investigate the causes of the problems and failures in the war. The watchdog organization also asked the court for an interim injunction barring the government from continuing its search for, or appointing, a new chief of staff.
Procaccia rejected the request for an interim injunction but ordered the state to provide a preliminary response to the petition by Friday, January 26 and set the date for the first hearing no later than Thursday, February 1.
The Movement for Quality Government argued that "all the leading candidates for the position were closely and directly involved in the issues under examination by the committee."
It maintained that the Winograd Committee could find that one or more of the candidates for the position or those responsible for choosing among them bear responsibility for problems that arose during the war, and recommend taking sanctions preventing one or more of the candidates from standing for the post and one or more government officials from appointing them.â€¢