Our New NSC Chief / An Empty Appointment

Committee due to pick one of eight candidates to lead the Fire and Rescue Service, but new leader will soon discover real power in Netanyahu's office lies with the military secretary.

Two senior IDF officers and a senior police officer are expected to take up important posts soon; they will head the National Security Council, the Military Intelligence Research Division and the Fire and Rescue Service. All three are worthy candidates, but one appointment is an empty title.

A committee headed by the Public Security Ministry's director general, Yaakov Ganot, is due this morning to pick one of eight candidates to lead the Fire and Rescue Service. The recommendation will be swiftly approved by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. Ganot, a former police commander and Prison Service commissioner, and his colleagues are likely to choose Tel Aviv police commander Shahar Ayalon for the job.

Ayalon, who turned 56 this week, is both thorough and creative. He improved the traffic police when he headed it. He will probably have original ideas for the reestablished Fire and Rescue Service. He knows, for example, that fighting fire doesn't begin at the moment of conflagration but long before, in making access roads for fire trucks in wooded areas, laying pipes and sprinklers in fire-prone areas and installing warning and response systems.

Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, who will head MI research, is supposed to warn about a different fire. One of the Israel Defense Forces' best brains, his background in air force intelligence, research and military thought combines an understanding of the rival needs of intelligence clients.

All MI research chiefs since the beginning of the 1990s have remained in the Defense Ministry, or the redundant Strategic Affairs Ministry, currently headed by Moshe Ya'alon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday tapped his man for the third link in this chain, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yaakov Amidror, as head of the NSC. Amidror will soon learn that the real power in Netanyahu's office lies with the military secretary, Yohanan Loker.

Amidror's accepting the appointment reflects the victory of hope over common sense. His worldview is irrelevant. Netanyahu also has a worldview, but that has nothing to do with his ability to implement it. The most effective paperwork produced by Amidror's team and the best coordination with Brun, the Foreign Ministry, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad will be futile. The official announcement of Amidror's appointment shows that Netanyahu doesn't even know that for years the NSC's Hebrew name has been changed from "council" to "HQ."

Netanyahu's real national security adviser is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and the supreme decider - after consulting with himself - is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Given Israel's regime structure, the best solution is to give the defense portfolio to the prime minister and appoint a strong, apolitical NSC head. In the next cabinet, for example, while waiting for the cooling-off period to end, it could be former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Amidror was born on May 14, 1948, the day David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the state. At the cabinet's current performance level, he's liable to find himself at Netanyahu's side during the declaration of the end of the state.