A Down-to-earth Chief of Staff

It is also clear Ashkenazi is trying to avoid getting involved in the arguments between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

The resignation of his predecessor, Dan Halutz, and the wait for the Winograd Committee report have created a tense atmosphere in the Israel Defense Forces. Ashkenazi is clearly doing everything possible to relieve the tension, to reassure the IDF.

He is not chopping off heads, there is no sign of what is called "cleaning out the stables." A new appointment at the top usually involves bringing in confidants of the new appointee and replacing others.

Ashkenazi is being cautious about that. Those who in the past were considered his opponents have also been reassured. It is also clear Ashkenazi is trying to avoid getting involved in the arguments between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. In a few months we will probably have a new defense minister with a defense background.

When Ashkenazi took up the position he was concerned the Winograd Committee would issue warning remarks to several generals. He was careful not to express his fear in public so that it would not be misunderstood.

If several generals are forced to prepare to defend themselves in the Winograd Committee, clearly they will barely have time for their regular jobs. Now it seems the committee will not issue warning remarks. On the other hand, it looks as though the state comptroller, in his report on the home front, will include sharp personal statements about a senior officer.

In any case, we can expect routine changes of the guard in the IDF leadership. Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky is completing his period of service in the job. He will probably be replaced by Major General Dan Harel, who is currently the IDF attache in Washington.

Others who will be replaced include the chief of Central Command, Major General Yair Naveh, the head of the Home Front Command, Major General Yitzhak Gershon, and the coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yosef Mishlav. In addition, battalion commanders will be appointed. The general staff Ashkenazi received looks very gray. We will have to see how he will resuscitate it.

Ashkenazi is trying to foster the atmosphere that the IDF must hurry because time is short for repairing what requires repair. Elements in the IDF itself are applying pressure to close operational and other gaps. Apparently Ashekanazi is emphasizing the training of the reserve units. This is the correct approach. He has twice visited the training facilities of the ground forces in the south, and once the training facility in Elyakim, where they are focusing on fighting Hezbollah.

The new chief of staff takes a great interest in tactical details and encourages the reservists to express their opinions; he speaks to them directly in a down-to-earth manner. It is clear Ashkenazi wants to renew the confidence of the reservists in the system after this confidence was undermined during the war.

One of the claims made after the war was that the language in the campaign orders had changed drastically. It has become literary and picturesque, and uses metaphors that are not appropriate for an army required to achieve goals on the battlefield. Many felt the language was liable to be confusing. Ashkenazi is trying to return to concise and soldierly language, to everyday Hebrew.

The new chief of staff has visited the divisions of the general staff and the air force and naval branches. He wants to change the comprehensive reorganization that was carried out in the IDF over the past two years. In addition, he conducted a discussion, mainly in the intelligence and plans and policy divisions, about the expected threats to Israel. They are neither minor nor simple.

In summary, it can be said Lieutenant General Ashkenazi's return to the IDF looks good. We will have to wait for the first conference of the senior command staff and for his first speech to them to hear his message to the IDF.