Race is on for next chief of staff

Barak to start interviewing candidates to replace Ashkenazi.

ehud barak 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ehud barak 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The race to find the next IDF chief of general staff officially kicked off on Wednesday with an announcement by Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he will begin interviewing potential candidates in the coming days.
Current Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will step down in February 2011 after Barak decided in April not to extend his term by a fifth year. A decision on the identity of his successor is expected in the coming weeks.
In reaction to the announcement, Ashkenazi's office said: "Barak is trying to turn the chief of general staff into a lame duck."
At the time Ashkenazi, 56, was said to be interested in having his term extended by a year in light of the threats that Israel faced from Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.
A decision to extend his term would have fit in to the general culture of recent appointments within the defense establishment, particularly the government’s decision last year to extend the tenure of Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin, who are also expected to step down in 2011.
Barak will meet with Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant and OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot. Another possible candidate is OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi.
One candidate said to have high chances is Galant, a former commander of the Navy’s elite commando unit Flotilla 13, better known as the Shayetet. Galant is reportedly close with Barak and several of his top associates and therefore enjoys an advantage over some of the other candidates.
At the same time, the deputy chief of staff, in this case Gantz, also enjoys a slight advantage over the other contenders due to his position as the natural successor and his frequent participation in meetings together with the political echelon.