MKs: Keep Ashkenazi until permanent IDF chief chosen

Powerful Knesset ctee promises to issue call for speedy appointment of IDF chief's replacement, questions legal basis for plan to appoint temporary chief.

Ashkenazi 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Ashkenazi 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Barely 12 hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant as the IDF’s next chief of General Staff, MKs on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday blasted Barak and Netanyahu’s decision-making process.
The powerful Knesset committee promised to issue a call for the speedy appointment of his replacement, and questioned the legal basis for the current plan to appoint a temporary army chief.
In an emergency meeting scheduled minutes after Tuesday night’s announcement about Galant, committee chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said that when making top-level security appointments, the prime minister and defense minister “must overcome their personal impulses and extend the term of the current chief of General Staff.”
Mofaz proposed that the committee issue a joint statement to the government, calling for outgoing IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi’s to stay in the post until a permanent replacement was selected. “Responsible and well-considered leadership should have acted differently,” Mofaz said.
MKs from both coalition and opposition parties, including Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), Miri Regev (Likud), Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and Arye Eldad (National Union), supported the proposal to extend Ashkenazi’s term in office. Other coalition lawmakers, however, shied away from issuing such a call, out of concern that it would undermine the prime minister's authority.
The committee’s legal adviser told the MKs that the government’s plan to appoint a temporary IDF chief while a new replacement was selected for Ashkenazi did not have any legal basis. Instead, she said, the cabinet might be forced to approve the nomination of Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh to serve as the chief of General Staff, but only for a two-month period.
Later on Wednesday, the opposition made criticism of the government’s zig-zag regarding Galant the cornerstone of a debate on the Knesset floor. Even before the recent developments regarding the IDF’s leadership made headlines on Tuesday, 40 opposition MKs, led by Kadima, signed a petition requiring Netanyahu to attend the special debate.
“Anybody who is not capable of appointing a chief of General Staff is not suitable to serve as prime minister,” opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni said during the debate. “Anyone who makes deals with the defense minister regarding military appointments must get out of the way. The IDF has become an embattled army.”
“The prime minister must explain why the citizens of Israel must deal with the question of whom they support, Ashkenazi or Naveh,” Livni said. “If there is a reason – beyond the defense minister’s personal issues – to not extend Ashkenazi’s term in office until a replacement is selected, then it should be stated openly. Because in a time of such uncertainty, this is not the time for experimentation in appointing a temporary chief of General Staff.”