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The head of the National Security Council, Major General (res.) Giora Eiland, has informed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that he intends to resign from his post by the end of the year.

Eiland told Sharon of his planned resignation some three months ago, but promised to stay until after the completion of the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. Sharon pleaded with him to stay in office, but recently accepted Eiland's wish to explore academic and business opportunities.

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Eiland said there were significant flaws in the the proposal to bring an Egyptian military force into Rafah, before Israel has decided whether to abandon the Philadelphi route and without receiving anything from the Egyptians and Palestinians in return.

The names of the candidates to replace Eiland will be made known only after a date is set for the next Knesset elections. If elections are scheduled for the beginning of 2006, an acting NSC head would be appointed, to allow a post-election prime minister to appoint a confident to the post.

Giladi may be asked to fill in

Sharon may ask Brigadier General (res.) Eival Giladi to fill in as acting NSC head until the elections.

Giladi, until recently head of the IDF's Strategic Planning Division, has opted to remain in the business world and declined a recent offer to resume active military service with the rank of major general. Other potential candidates are majors general who are to retire from the IDF in the next few months, or who have retired in recent years.

Eiland, 53, is the fourth NSC head in the council's six years of existence. Like his predecessors David Ivri, Uzi Dayan and Efraim Halevy, he has failed to penetrate the walls around prime ministers Ehud Barak (Ivri) and Sharon (Dayan and Halevy). However, unlike Dayan and Halevy, who ended their term after falling out with Sharon, Eiland and the premier have maintained correct working relations, despite professional disagreements and political confidants' efforts to come between them.

In private forums, Eiland has criticized the decision-making process employed by Sharon, as well as its consequences. At the beginning of 2003, a few weeks after he retired from the IDF and joined the NSC, Eiland learned of Sharon's evacuation initiative, which was then involved a smaller withdrawal in the Gaza Strip and a larger one in the West Bank. He objected to fundamental portions of the proposal, but helped to draft the plan and took part in talks about it with the U.S. administration.

Eiland was responsible for the creation of the Sela Disengagement Administration and setting a realistic time table for the disengagement, according to which the last Israeli was to leave Gaza by December 2005.

He was also largely responsible for drafting the evacuation plan that was approved by the cabinet and Knesset.

Other issues the NSC dealt with under Eiland's direction include the influence of demographics on the composition of Israel's population and the nature of citizenship, the condition of the Bedouin in the Negev and the structure of Israeli and Palestinian control in Jerusalem under a final status agreement.