Like a fighter pilot on a five-minute alert waiting in the cockpit for the siren to go off, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz has been assaulting the position of chief of staff from the moment he took up the job. A visit to Sderot that was widely covered in the media, a round of appointments, and this morning meetings with the top brass and with journalists.
There is no mistaking the message: The Israel Defense Forces is being led by a new boss, who has a clear philosophy and is not offering an immediate necessity (the evacuation of Gaza) as an excuse for postponing long-range decisions.
The "down" in Halutz's crossword is shifting the center of gravity in the ground forces, the regional commands and the Technological and Logistical Directorate (TLD). The "across" is the implementation of the model used in the air force of two deputy chiefs, a staff chief for force-building (planning, organization, budgeting) and an operations deputy.
The new chief of staff is bringing into the IDF in its entirety a formula that contributed to the success of the air force and to Halutz's own success. In his quiet way, without clashing with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Halutz maneuvers well in the corridors of power and achieves his aims one after the other: to be appointed chief of staff, to edge out Major General Gabi Ashkenazi and appoint a senior management team to his own liking.
A prime example: the Ground Force Command, which will now be headed by an officer senior to the territorial GOCs who will also control their divisions. To oil the creaky gears connecting the TLD and the Ground Force Command, two bodies that are in constant friction, TLD head Udi Adam will be transferred to the Northern Command, and Avi Mizrahi, the chief of Ground Forces headquarters, will be appointed in his stead. Everyone is happy, because this represents a personal advancement for both of them and the organizational results will help to advance the Halutz plan.
The surprising thing about Halutz's changes is that they are not surprising at all, if his opinions and his remarks over the years are taken now at face value. As IAF chief and aspiring chief of staff, Halutz voiced ideas that he can now implement and named the major generals who will lead them: Moshe Kaplinsky and Benny Ganz.
In making his appointments to the General Staff's top posts, Halutz is acting according to the precedent of appointments of the air force top command five years ago. Then, upon receiving command of the force, he went beyond his customary horizon, but still within the system, by offering the post of air staff chief to Brigadier General (Res.) Uzi Rosen, who was in charge of special weapons at the Defense Ministry; now he has turned to Washington and offered the position of head of Military Intelligence to Major General Amos Yadlin.
In 2000, when Rosen refused Halutz's offer, it was Yadlin who skipped from the position of director of air force intelligence to the position of staff chief. In effect, the distinction between the air staff chief and the operations deputy had already been replicated in the General Staff in 1999, when Halutz was promoted to major general and tasked with creating and heading the Operations Division. During the intervening years, however, the operations deputy was regarded as relatively junior.
Now Halutz has given extensive powers to his deputy Kaplinsky and has appointed as head of the Operations Directorate Gadi Eisenkot, who is close to Kaplinsky and takes up his position riding the wave of his success as commander of the Judea and Samaria Division. Two months ago Halutz smiled upon reading press reports that promised Eisenkot the position of head of Military Intelligence and hinted that this was the wish of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. At that time Halutz was already aiming to make it clear that he and he alone would decide and that his candidates were Yadlin for Military Intelligence and Eisenkot for Operations.
When Yadlin was disappointed last year by the choice of Eliezer Shkedi over him as Halutz's successor in the air force, he agreed to accept the post of IDF attache in Washington, but hoped in vain until his departure for the United States for an even better offer, head of Military Intelligence.
The offer came after a one-year delay, but this was compensated for by the knowledge he has acquired of the American arena, which is essential for understanding regional and international processes, as is required of the head of Military Intelligence. Yadlin is a deep thinker and excels at discovering relationships and contexts, real and imagined. His suspicious and even conspiratorial approach does not bode well for success in other positions, but it is good for the head of Military Intelligence, who is tested above all by early warnings and must not be complacent.
In any case, the head of Military Intelligence's importance as the provider of national estimates and warnings, the supreme responsibility in the army will remain that of the chief of general staff, and judging from his behavior thus far, Halutz will not shrug it off.
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