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Middle east

Israel names new army chief amid uncertainty over security shakeup

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-06

Israel announced the appointment of Benny Ganz as the new head of its armed forces on Saturday following a shakeup in the top ranks of Israeli security.

REUTERS - Israel named a new head for its armed forces on Saturday following a shakeup in the top ranks that a deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said had undermined national security at a time of regional turmoil.

The appointment of Benny Ganz, the former second-in-command who retired from the military after being passed over for chief of staff last year, will be proposed to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.

The nomination came days after Barak's first pick, Major General Yoav Galant, was withdrawn over a property scandal, raising the prospect of Israel having no replacement ready when the current chief, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, steps down on Feb. 14.

Barak had curtailed Ashkenazi's tenure and refused to extend it should finding a substitute for Galant prove protracted. That triggered criticism given Israeli worries over the power struggle in neighbouring Egypt and Iran's nuclear programme.

Interviewed on Israeli television about the regional chaos, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, himself a former chief of staff, said of the Barak-Ashkenazi standoff: "There is no doubt that this blighted relationship harms national security."

Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had originally said they would install a new chief of staff within 60 days, with the current second-in-command, Major-General Yair Naveh, standing in for Ashkenazi. The Ganz announcement suggested a far quicker pace.

"The prime minister and defence minister see great importance, at this time, to eliminating the uncertainty over the appointment of the chief of staff and stabilising the military apparatus," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Breaking with an Israeli tradition of sparing the military chief public censure, Barak had accused Ashkenazi of unspecified ethical and professional misconduct "of the highest order".

The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said in an unsourced report that Barak soured on Ashkenazi after the general told U.S. counterparts that Israel had "no military option" for denying Iran the means to make a nuclear bomb.
Other media have speculated the men fell out over procedural disputes or simple dislike. Ashkenazi has denied wrongdoing.

A former commander of Israel's airborne commando regiment, Ganz, 52, also oversaw forces on the Lebanese and Syrian fronts and served as defence attache in Washington.
 

Date created : 2011-02-06

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