Olmert, Peretz begin search for new chief of staff

Thursday, January 18, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz resisted mounting pressures to resign after Israel’s chief of staff stepped down and instead began searching for a new candidate to fill the post on Thursday.

Israeli army chief of staff Dan Halutz resigned after a series of inquires into military mishaps found following last summer’s war in Lebanon. Halutz was the first Israeli chief of staff to resign since the 1973 war, leaving the government with further political troubles.

Peretz, who is responsible by law for recommending a new candidate, met with top army officials, including Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-General Moshe Kaplinski, Commander of Ground Forces Maj.-General Beni Ganz, and Director General of the Defense Ministry Maj.-General Gabi Ashkenazi, eyeing them as possible successors.

But, instead of leaving the choice up to the defense minister, Olmert took matters into his own hands, setting up his own series of meetings for possible nominees. The prime minister plans to meet with former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli army Chiefs of Staffs Dan Shomron, Moshe Yaalon, and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. Other favorites include former Defense Ministers Benyamin Ben-Eliezer and Shaul Mofaz.

The candidate must appear before a special committee headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Tilker who will examine the nominee. The nomineed is then brought before the cabinet for a final decision.

Israeli media, meanwhile, reports that the Israeli public is questioning the competence of its leaders, following their perceived mismanagement of the Lebanon war.

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