Appointing an air force commander to the position of IDF Chief of General Staff was a mistake, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Emmanual Sakal said Saturday. Sakal, formerly OC Ground Forces, told Israel Radio that it had been a mistake to think that a pilot, "no matter how talented," could deal effectively with the problems faced by ground forces, especially during a war. According to Sakal, outgoing Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz's appointment had not been "free from political considerations."
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When asked about candidates to replace Halutz, Sakal said he hoped that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz would understand that "one of the candidates" was a better choice than the others. While Sakal refused to name which one, he said that the fact that the candidate was retired was an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
Sakal said that the summer's Lebanon war exposed deficiencies caused by ongoing defense budget cuts since 1982. Sakal cited cutbacks to the training budget for regular and reserve soldiers, as well as funding for reserve days, and called for quick return to previous levels and frequency of training.
On Friday, Army Radio quoted sources close to Olmert saying that the prime minister would work with Peretz to appoint a new chief of General Staff early next week, Army Radio reported.
Earlier, sources across the political spectrum estimated that Olmert would delay the appointment under the assumption that the defense minister would stand down from his post in a matter of weeks.
However, Peretz emphasized Friday that he would be the one to appoint the next IDF chief of General Staff in coordination with Olmert.
Also, Army Radio reported that during a closed meeting, Peretz said that he would not "give Olmert the pleasure of seeing me resign."
Reportedly, former prime minister Ehud Barak advised Olmert Thursday not to hasten the appointment of chief of staff, but instead to wait and "consider the subject well."
In contrast, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Friday pushed for a rapid appointment of Halutz's successor and without regard for the changes likely to occur within the Defense Ministry. "There are three excellent candidates," said Ben-Eliezer. "There is no need to delay the appointment."