Candidates for Chief of Staff: Who, why, and why not

Thursday, January 18, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
As the “race” for the post of next Israeli army chief of staff heats up, the public is speculating as to who will fill this role.

The decision is also political because the chief of staff shares decision-making power with the prime minister and defense minister and the chief of staff.

Currently, the three leading candidates to replace Dan Halutz are Maj.-General Moshe Kaplinsky (l.), Maj.-General (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi (m.), and Maj.-General Beni Ganz.

Maj.-General Moshe Kaplinsky
Kaplinsky is deputy chief of staff, second in command, and is considered the leading candidate for the post. Kaplinsky served in the elite Golani infantry division, has vast experience as the head of Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command, as the military secretary for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and as commander of the Galilee Division before Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

His experience on the Lebanese front prompted Halutz to appoint Kaplinsky to oversee the war from the northern command. Kaplinsky’s involvement in the war, however, may also serve as an obstacle if he is associated with the failures of the war.

Maj.-General (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi
Ashkenazi, if selected, will be the first chief of staff to return to uniform after retiring from the army. Currently, Ashkenazi serves as the director-general of the Defense Ministry under Amir Peretz and is considered Peretz’s man for the job. Before retiring in 2005, Ashkenazi served as deputy chief of staff under former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon.

Not having served in last summer’s war could prove an advantage for Ashkenazi, in spite of criticism he may receive from the inquiry for his tenure as head of Northern Command during Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.

Maj.-General Beni Ganz
Ganz, a paratrooper, is the “dark horse” in the race for two reasons: his inexperience in senior general staff positions and his close connections to the war in Lebanon. Ganz served as head of the Northern Command before the war (2002-2005) and is currently serving as head of the Ground Forces Headquarters, which was directly responsible for preparing fighting forces in Lebanon.

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