galant - Itzik Ben-Malki - Aug 24 2010
IDF chief of staff designate Yoav Galant. Photo by Itzik Ben-Malki
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff-designate Yoav Galant are convinced they will be able to persuade GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot not to retire from the IDF.

The two met yesterday to begin planning Galant's first moves as head of the IDF.

A day after Galant's appointment was announced, Barak began trying to calm the tension in the upper ranks of the IDF caused by the police investigation into a forged document that sought to influence the choice of the next chief of staff, as well as personal differences among the top brass.

As their first goal, Barak and Galant decided to try to convince Eizenkot not to retire from the army. Though Eizenkot recently told close associates that he did not intend to serve under Galant if he were appointed chief of staff, Barak and Galant would like him to stay on, in part because this would send a calming message throughout the IDF.

Eizenkot is also considered invaluable because of his wealth of experience on one of Israel's most critical fronts - the Lebanese border.

Barak and Eizenkot are expected to meet today, and Galant called the GOC Northern Command on Sunday night. But Eizenkot is not expected to give a final answer immediately. He is likely to wait and see what positions he is offered both on the General Staff and in private life.

Two General Staff positions are expected to be available: deputy chief of staff, in place of Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, who is expected to retire, and chief of Military Intelligence, since Amos Yadlin has asked to retire after five years in this demanding post.

Eizenkot is expected to opt initially for the role of chief of Military Intelligence, and then seek to become deputy chief of staff halfway through Galant's tenure, which would give him an easier path toward the chief of staff's job after Galant retires.

But sources close to Galant said the chief of staff-designate would probably prefer to have Eizenkot as his deputy from the start, because of his extensive experience in military administration.

Another post that will have to be filled in the coming days is that of GOC Southern Command, which Galant will vacate in preparation for assuming the responsibilities of chief of staff. Two candidates are considered front-runners for the job: Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, head of the Operations Directorate, and GOC Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Yair Golan. Both, however, would prefer to be appointed GOC Northern Command in place of Eizenkot.

Barak and Galant also discussed the management of the General Staff over the next six months, until Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi steps down in February, since the early announcement of his replacement is likely to affect his status.

One thing Barak is expected to do in order to assuage Ashkenazi and ensure that he does not rock the boat on his way out is approve most of the appointments of new brigadier generals that Ashkenazi proposed three weeks ago. Galant will also be part of this process, but is expected to keep a low profile, as he does not want to prolong the appointments bottleneck.