Maj. Gen. (res) and President of the Council for Peace and Security Daniel Rothschild called on Thursday for the appointment of an interim IDF chief of staff until the findings of the Winograd Committee, which is investigating the failings of the political and security echelon during the recent war in Lebanon, are released.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, however, called on Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz not to appoint a new army chief until the committee’s conclusions are made public, opting instead to keep the resigning Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz on until that time.
Rothschild, a former head of military intelligence and coordinator of government activities in the territories, said, "We may find ourselves in a situation wherein all the candidates for the position of chief of staff are accused by the Winograd Committee of failings (for their role in the war); some of the candidates were involved in the (IDF’s activities) in the north in recent years, and therefore I would appoint an interim replacement until the publication of the committee’s findings, at which point a permanent chief of staff will be named.”
“Sometimes it is preferable to take a deep breath, wait a month or two until the preliminary Winograd findings are released, and then appoint a new chief of staff,” he added. “It’s not as though the army will come to a halt without a chief of staff; the IDF knows how to work when the chief of staff is abroad or ill – it shouldn’t be a problem.”
It should be noted that the three top candidates for the position were either directly involved in the war in Lebanon or with the military's activities in the north over the past few years: Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, the current deputy chief of staff, was sent to be the chief of staff's representative in the Northern Command after Command Chief Maj. Gen. Udi Adam was pushed aside during the war.
Maj. Gen. (res) Gabi Ashkenazi served as deputy chief of staff and head of the Northern Command. Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, the current commander of the IDF's Ground Forces, was also head of the Northern Command. Gantz was also involved in preparations for the war and provided assistance to the Northern Command throughout the course of the war.
The possibility of appointing a chief of staff who has been absent from the system for a long time is certainly a viable option according to Rothschild, should the Winograd Committee send warnings to the current candidates following their involvement in the war.
Should such a situation arise, explains Rothschild, there will be a need to "bring in an outsider. Because you can't have a chief of staff, who is already under investigation before he even begins his work. You have to bring in someone from the outside, who hasn't been involved with the Northern Command or the General Staff for the past five or six years."
The Movement for Quality Government says that it is unacceptable for political and security figures, who may be found guilty of personal failings during the war by the Winograd Committee, to appoint someone to such a significant position in Israel like the position of chief of staff.
Aviram Zino contributed to this report