Barak Gantz - Ariel Harmoni - Aug 25 2010
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz. Photo by Ariel Harmoni
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that he believes outgoing Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will serve out his full term of office.

Barak met with Ashkenazi on Tuesday to discuss the general's immediate future in the wake of GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant's designation as his successor.

There had been speculation that Barak's announcement of his choice to succeed Ashkenazi a full six months before the end of the latter's term would prompt him to submit his resignation. But following Tuesday's meeting, the defense minister said he believed Ashkenazi would remain in his post until his term officially expires in February 2011.

Barak expressed his appreciation for Ashkenazi's work, adding that he looks forward to working in concert with the outgoing chief and Galant to dispel the tensions that have arisen in the army's high command.

Barak also met on Tuesday with GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot in an effort to persuade him to remain in the IDF once Galant is installed as chief of staff. Eizenkot, who had wanted the chief of staff's job himself and is also closely identified with Ashkenazi, had told associates in the military that he would quit if Galant got the nod instead. Galant is to meet with Eizenkot for the same purpose next week.

Ashkenazi and Galant also sat down on Tuesday for the first of a series of meetings designed to smooth the latter's transition into his new job. The six-month transition will enable Galant to become more familiar with the IDF's various branches and how the organization works. This is considered crucial, since Galant's resume does not include any senior General Staff position.

In the coming weeks, Galant and Ashkenazi will come to a decision on the next GOC Southern Command. The leading candidates for the post are Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, who is currently head of the Operations Directorate, and GOC Home Front Command Yair Golan. Filling this post would free Galant to focus solely on learning his new job.

At Barak's meeting with Eizenkot, the minister pledged that the officer would receive a plum job if he opted to remain in the army - either head of Military Intelligence or deputy chief of staff. Barak and Galant are both eager to retain Eizenkot, in order to demonstrate to the army that the bitterness generated by the so-called Galant document has been put to rest.

Recent reports claim that Eizenkot saw the forged document, which purported to be a plan for securing Galant's appointment, but failed to apprise Galant of its existence. In addition, a close ally of Eizenkot is suspected of handing the document to the individual who eventually leaked it to the press.

Eizenkot associates said they believed the general would wait to see how developments unfold in the General Staff before deciding whether to stay.