Vice Premier Shimon Peres on Thursday urged to put an end to the "atmosphere of despair, exaggeration and hysteria gripping the country following the resignation of Chief of Staff Dan Halutz."
"A new chief of staff will be appointed soon; there are worthy candidates, it is necessary and possible to select one of them," Peres told reporters on the sidelines of a conference held by the Center for Strategic Dialog at the Netanya Academic College.
He addressed the current crisis against the background of his vast experience of former times of crisis for the state and the military. "I'm rich in experience and I will use it this time. I can say that I have been through a number of similar crises, including among other things the Yom Kippur war and the resignation of chief of staff Yigal Yadin while I was director of the ministry of defense (in 1952). I can tell you that when there is a crisis; people think that it is the end of the world.
"I can guarantee you – this is the end of the crisis, not the end of the war. The state will bounce back, the IDF will bounce back. You don't have to become weak and don't deal out despair and wailing," Peres said.
The vice premier also called for the support of Lt. Gen. Halutz and the rest of the IDF's generals at this difficult time.
"We have to give them our support. They fought for the country and they deserve more appreciation and credit for what they've done – this applied to the resigning chief of staff and for the candidates to replace him.
"I myself am not losing my nerves, I believe that the Yom Kippur war was a far greater crisis," he said.
When asked by Ynet if the resigning chief of staff should remain in his position until the findings of the Winograd Committee are released or if he should leave now Peres said: "Why must the chief of staff wait? Nobody knows when the committee will submit its findings. There are no findings and meanwhile the country has to make decisions. If there is criticism – then there will be criticism."
When asked if he supports the appointment of a chief of staff from within the ranks of the IDF or a candidate who has already left the military Peres said that he doesn't believe that such a debate should be held in public. "The government should appoint the chief of staff according to the recommendation of the minister of defense and approval of the prime minister. And that is the way to act."
Peres also addressed the firework celebration in Beirut following Halutz's resignation: "Let's stop slandering ourselves, let's stop hurling blame and stop exaggerating. We're a vigorous people, we've been through these crises and we'll go through them again in the future, so let's stop. Let the Prime Minister manage the affairs of the state. Let them complete the investigation and don't make a public trial of it. It's unjust and wrong. I am fearful of this atmosphere of exaggeration, despair and hysteria. That's what brought the rallies in Lebanon. We are a strong nation."
Deputy Defense Minister MK Ephraim Sneh also commented on the issue on Thursday morning. “We are making every effort to appoint a new IDF chief of staff as soon as possible,” said Sneh.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz met with former IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General (res.) Dan Shomron Thursday to discuss his recommendations for the new chief of staff.
Shomron, who was in charge of examining the General Staff’s functioning during the war, told Ynet Wednesday that IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz’s resignation might lead to a delay in the implementation of the lessons drawn from the war.
On Wednesday Peretz held meetings with four potential candidates: Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, the Commander of the Armored Corps Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. (retired) Gabi Ashkenazi, and Ilan Biran, former Defense Minister Director-General.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is also holding consultations on the matter, and is expected to meet with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, also a former IDF chief, former head of the Shin Bet and current Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and former Chief of Staff and ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak.