Barak stands behind Galant as appointment goes down to wire

Speculation rife as to who might serve as interim chief of staff following Ashkenazi, whose term won’t be extended.

Russo, Galant, Ashkenaza and Barak toast wine 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Russo, Galant, Ashkenaza and Barak toast wine 311
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak stood behind his decision to appoint Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant as the next IDF chief of General Staff on Sunday, as Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein held consultations in the Justice Ministry ahead of a decision on whether the land scandal Galant was allegedly involved in will scuttle his promotion.
On Monday, Army Radio quoted Barak as saying that he would not agree to extend current Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi’s term beyond February 14 and if needed would appoint a temporary chief of staff until he finds a candidate to replace Galant.
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“I plan to go with Galant to the end,” Barak was quoted as saying.
One possibility is that Barak will ask Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, the current deputy chief of General Staff, who emerged from retirement to serve under Galant, to take up the post.
Other possible candidates are Naveh’s predecessor, Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who lost the post originally to Galant and recently retired from the IDF, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi.
Sources close to Barak have said that the defense minister would also consider retired generals who have been out of service for several years.
But this option has caused grumbling within the IDF, particularly after the appointment a few months ago of Naveh.
“It would be a major vote of no-confidence to have the two top officers in the IDF both brought back from retirement,” a senior officer said.
If Barak asks one of the generals currently in active service to hold the position on a caretaker basis, without receiving a promotion in rank, he would likely need to receive special approval from the cabinet and make some adjustments to current laws.
MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, stressed on Monday that it is important to maintain the status of the position of chief of General Staff.
“That is the reason that I asked the attorney-general to work to conclude the saga regarding the selection of the new chief of General Staff,” he told reporters.
Both outgoing Ashkenazi and Galant are worthy people, he said, but the “system must work smoothly. The recent incidents have had an impact on the way that things are seen both inside and outside the army.”
Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.