Outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
Outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi attending a farewell event for him on Feb. 2, 2011 with disabled veterans. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Late last night the Prime Minister's Office announced that, for technical reasons, a cabinet vote initially scheduled for today - approving the temporary appointment of Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh as acting Israel Defense Forces chief of staff - will not take place until Sunday.

The technical reason cited is a legally required 48-hour waiting period prior to the vote.

Some cabinet members were expected to vote against the plan to appoint Naveh acting IDF chief of staff for two months. The ministers are said to believe that it would be better to extend Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's term, due to expire on February 14.

Senior IDF officers told Haaretz that an interim appointment would worsen the paralysis already afflicting the army.

The Naveh appointment was said to be supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. On Tuesday, Netanyahu and Barak withdrew their support for Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as next chief of staff amid allegations that he had improperly seized public land near his home.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, proposed in Sunday's cabinet meeting that Barak extend Ashkenazi's term by three months, but backed down after Barak strongly opposed the idea.

Galant yesterday submitted a response to the High Court petition against his appointment. He sharply criticized the attorney general and state comptroller, and accused journalists of conducting "hideous propaganda" against him.

MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima ), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a former chief of staff, said Ashkenazi's term should be extended and that a temporary appointment would be a "serious constitutional problem."

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said "Barak has harmed the IDF," referring to the way Galant was appointed. Ya'alon, a Likud member and a former chief of staff, agrees with Mofaz that it would be better to extend Ashkenazi's term.

Last night, Barak told Channel 2 television that the tense relations between him and Ashkenazi do not influence the army's operations. Ya'alon then told associates that if this is the case, there is no problem if Ashkenazi continues in his post for another few weeks.

Ya'alon, who is also deputy prime minister, is expected to decide how to vote only after he hears Netanyahu and Barak's explanations on why Ashkenazi's term cannot be extended. Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor also reportedly has reservations about the Naveh appointment.

Senior IDF officers told Haaretz that an interim appointment would worsen the paralysis that the army is experiencing. There are three major problems: the crisis between Barak and Ashkenazi, the affair involving a letter forged by Lt. Col. (res. ) Boaz Harpaz that ostensibly helped Galant's candidacy, and the storm surrounding Galant's disqualification as chief of staff.

Also, more than 150 senior officers are waiting for promotions that were approved by Ashkenazi six months ago but delayed by Barak, who said they would have to wait until Galant took office.

In particular, Barak and Galant reportedly opposed Ashkenazi's choice for the next chief education officer, Col. Erez Wiener, who would then be promoted to brigadier general.

The police report on the Harpaz affair revealed that Wiener had authorized removing the Harpaz letter from the chief of staff's office; it later reached Channel 2.

Meanwhile, the left-wing groups Yesh Gvul and Gush Shalom sought a restraining order yesterday against Naveh's appointment. They want a delay until the High Court rules on a petition against Naveh's appointment as deputy chief of staff after a 2008 Haaretz report revealed that Naveh had ordered targeted killings in the West Bank, ostensibly ignoring High Court directives.