Ashkenazi ends tenure as Israel's top soldier February. Galant leading candidate
DEBKAfile Special Report April 6, 2010, 9:14 PM (GMT+02:00)
Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi bows out in February
Analysis: Bad time to replace top security chiefs?
By YAAKOV KATZ
Changing of guard at IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence to come all at once, at a particularly sensitive juncture.
By this time next year, the Israeli defense establishment will look very different.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will have stripped off his uniform and returned to civilian life after completing his term at the army’s helm in February 2011.
Mossad chief Meir Dagan is scheduled to step down in June of this year, after having his term repeatedly extended. It is unlikely that his term will be extended again.
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin will have one foot out the door with his term, following a one-year extension, slated to end in May 2011. There is also Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, the oldest member of the General Staff, who is scheduled to retire from the IDF this summer after having his term extended by a year as well.
These changes will, without a doubt, shake up the top defense echelons for several months. And their timing is problematic: tension is on the rise the North with Hizbullah as well as in the South with Hamas, and by next year, according to Israeli assessments, Iran will be capable of developing a nuclear bomb.
All four officials have worthy potential successors. Ashkenazi is likely to be succeeded by either current Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who has already held three positions in the General Staff, or OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, said to be Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s favorite and the officer credited with the success of Operation Cast Lead last year.
In the Shin Bet, Diskin will likely be replaced by one of two candidates – Y., the former deputy head of the agency who will have spent a year at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, or D., the current deputy. It is possible, though, that one of the generals who loses the race for the chief of General Staff will receive the Shin Bet as a consolation prize.
Dagan has held on to his job for almost nine years, during which a number of his deputies have stepped down out of frustration. One of them, T., is a possible candidate, as is Hagai Hadas, a former top Mossad official who now serves as the prime minister’s point man in the negotiations with Hamas for the release of Gilad Schalit.
While all of these officers and officials have years of experience in their respective positions, there is no doubt that their appointments will shake up the system. A new chief of general staff means new heads for the different commands, particularly in the South and the North, Israel’s most volatile borders.
While Barak had every right to decide not to extend Ashkenazi’s term, the fact that all four of Israel’s security chiefs will be leaving their jobs within just a few months of each other points to a possible lack of long-term strategic planning by Israel’s leaders.
Barak, though, might not be that concerned. After all, he does not plan to go anywhere.
Samaria Mayor: Our Case Against Destruction is Just
by Hillel Fendel
With less than a month to go, residents of Eli hope the Supreme Court will decide not to allow the destruction of the homes of fallen war heroes Ro'i Klein and Eliraz Peretz in the Shomron.
The Supreme Court will issue its ruling on a petition brought by the radical Peace Now organization, which demands that a small neighborhood in Eli be razed because it is "illegal." Peace Now claims that the homes are located on private Arab land; the residents and township say this is nonsense.
Among the 24 families living in the HaYovel neighborhood are the widows and small children of Ro'i Klein and Eliraz Peretz, both of whom were killed in clashes with the enemy while serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Klein was killed in the summer of 2006, during the Second Lebanon War. While fighting for control of the hostile village of Bint Jbil in southern Lebanon, Maj. Klein and his men were ambushed by Hizbullah terrorists. At one point, Klein began treating one of his wounded comrades, at which point a terrorist hurled a grenade at the group. Ro'i yelled out "Shma Yisrael" and jumped upon the grenade, absorbing the brunt of the explosion, saving the men around him, and breathing his last a few seconds later.
Peretz was killed less than two weeks ago in a clash with Moslem Arab terrorists in Gaza.
The mayor of Eli, Kobi Eliraz, told Arutz-7 on Wednesday that, based on the facts alone, he expects the Supreme Court to turn down the Peace Now petition. "The homes of the Peretz and Klein families, just like the others in the neighborhood, are located on land owned by the State of Israel," Eliraz said. "The case has been ongoing for five years, and a final ruling is expected at the beginning of next month.
"No Palestinians Other Than Peace Now Claim This Land"
"This is nothing more than a political petition," he added, "and we are certain that we are in the right. The homes are on state-owned lands, and there is not one Palestinian, aside from Peace Now, who claims these lands as his own."
"The Peace Now petition is based solely on the findings of the Talia Sasson report of 2005," Eliraz said, "which is a report that has no validity at all." Sasson, long known for her left-wing views – she ran for Knesset on the Meretz party list in 2009 – was asked to prepare a report on the "illegal outposts in Judea and Samaria." Often cited as being one-sided and biased, her report claimed that despite instrumental aid provided by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Housing and Construction and the World Zionist Organization, the outposts should be considered illegal.
The Minister of Science, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Herskowitz, said at a Cabinet session on the report that “if you look at the outposts, you’ll see that their classification as illegal was made by Talia Sasson, who is not exactly an objective source. Often, the only reason for an outpost’s classification as illegal is not because of the residents themselves, but because of a technical government problem, and there is truly no legal problem at all.”
Mayor: Petition is Immoral
Mayor Eliraz said that Peace Now's petition is immoral: "This neighborhood was built in the State of Israel's Jubilee year, and that's why it's called HaYovel . The Klein and Peretz families are perfect examples of the type of people who live here; they sense that they are on a national mission, and they include military men, public figures and of course Torah scholars. Suddenly, someone gets up and decides that it's an illegal outpost; this is not ethical. And the fact that two of those living here fell on behalf of the State of Israel merely intensifies our feelings. We hope that in three weeks, the Supreme Court will accept the State's response on this matter, and that the homes will finally receive their final authorization." (IsraelNationalNews.com)
Jordan Wants a Piece of Jerusalem, Too
by Shimon Cohen and Gil Ronen
Jordan has not waived its rights to sovereignty and responsibility over the Temple Mount, the Hashemite Kingdom's Minister of Islamic Affairs and Holy Sites, Abdel Salam Abbadi, said Tuesday.
The Minister said that in its 1988 decision to disconnect from Judea and Samaria, Jordan had not disengaged itself from Jerusalem and the holy sites, the Al Quds newspaper reported.
Observers said that the minister's statements were not necessarily aimed solely at Israeli ears. It could be that Jordan wants to stake out its claim to Jerusalem because the Palestinian Authority is currently demanding the Holy City for itself with overt United States support, and Jordan does not want to be left out.
Senior PA officials are currently in the US, poring over maps and other documents that they intend to present before the American administration as proof that the PA is capable of controlling areas under its authority. The presentation is intended to bolster new demands from Israel for territorial handovers, including areas of Jerusalem such as Abu Dis. (IsraelNationalNews.com)
Israel Completes Upgrading Turkey's Tanks
by Hillel Fendel
Despite the Turkish antagonism to Israel of late, business is business: A joint Turkish-Israeli project to revamp and upgrade 170 Turkish tanks has been completed.
The last of the tanks, model M60A1, was delivered to Turkey this week, completing the program jointly carried out by the Turkish Defense Ministry, Israel Aircraft Industries and Elbit Systems
The program was the largest of its kind in the world, and the tanks are now equivalent to the highest-level tanks in the world.
The nearly-$700 million deal was signed in March 2002. It is not clear if the successful conclusion of the project will lead to better ties between Turkey and Israel, or perhaps Turkey's new-found lack of dependency upon Israel will lead it further towards Islamic extremists.
Turkey’s M60A1 tanks started out as 40-year-old American armored vehicles, but now boast state-of-the-art weapons systems that combine the best of tankionics, fire power, sensors, and more.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul outlined, at the concluding ceremony, the technological advantages of the upgraded tanks, and noted that it had undergone very thorough – and successful – checking prior to operative use. He added that in order to access the knowledge and experience acquired in the course of the project, Israel Aircraft Industries and a Turkish company had signed a cooperative agreement, with the goal of working together on additional projects throughout the world.
Defense Ministry Director-General Gen. (res.) Udi Shani said, “I am proud to be here on Turkish soil and to take part in this ceremony. Another joint project has ended successfully. This project is unique in its scope in both countries, which recruited its best forces for the mission.” (IsraelNationalNews.com)
Israel Distributes Gas Masks Nationwide
by Hana Levi Julian
Israel has begun its nationwide program to provide protection kits with gas masks to every citizen in the country, and for the first time ever, the IDF Home Front Command has teamed up with the nation's Postal Service to distribute the equipment.
The campaign, officially launched on Tuesday, is being carried out to ensure that every Israeli will be protected in case of chemical, biological or other attack that could temporarily threaten one's ability to breathe.
Citizens are able to obtain their kits in two ways – either by going to one of several distribution stations currently in the process of opening up throughout the country, or by calling the Israel Postal Service and asking for the kits to be mailed directly to the home.
The first distribution points are expected to open in Ashdod and Rishon LeTzion, with eight more stations to open shortly thereafter in the Tel Aviv metro area, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, Haifa and the surrounding area.
Israelis choosing the second option are asked to call the Israel Postal Authority's “171” hotline and coordinate a time for delivery of the kit to the home. The delivery service costs NIS 25 (approximately $7) per household.
Several weeks ago, the project was piloted in the Beka'at Ono area
, where some 70,000 were distributed via the postal service. “The high satisfaction with the Home Front Command's service regarding the distribution time and according to the terms of the agreement with the Israel Post has brought further cooperation with them on a national level,” explained the IDF Spokesman in a statement on the army's website.
Individual protection kits were first distributed to the citizens of Israel on the eve of the American Gulf War with Iraq in 1990. Routine maintenance of the kits was subsequently provided by Home Front Command until 2003. As the kits reached their expiration dates, and demographic changes took place across the country, the government collected the kits for rehabilitation and upgrading in a drive that took place from 2007 to 2008.
Home Front Command may be reached by dialing ”1207” from any telephone in Israel. (IsraelNationalNews.com)
A fatal blow to peace
By BEN-DROR YEMINI
Pursuing Israeli evacuation from Jewish J'lem areas isn't pursuing peace.
Too many, in their naïveté, think that US President Barak Obama’s recent pressure on Israel has left it with only two options – progressing towards peace or continuing construction in Jerusalem. This is a grave mistake. The president’s demands on Israel, precisely from the perspective of promoters of painful compromise, pose a deadly threat to chances of achieving an agreement.
In order to understand where Obama led us, one should bear in mind that we are already in the second decade of the so-called peace process, with results that are very “here and there”: an interim agreement here, a cease-fire agreement there, disengagement, another withdrawal... it’s two steps back for every step forward.
When former prime minister Ehud Barak offered to divide Jerusalem in 1999, he was rewarded with a negative answer from Yasser Arafat. When former president Bill Clinton enhanced the offer and came up with an unprecedented plan, Arafat again said “no,” despite having reportedly been warned by representatives of the Egyptian president and the Saudi Arabian king, before entering the White House, that rejecting the offer would be tantamount to committing a “crime against the Palestinian nation.”
Arafat committed the crime.
In the past three years, negotiations have taken place on two tracks – the first between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas; and the second, the more detailed one, between Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qurei in 2007. Abbas proceeded to reject Olmert’s generous offer at Annapolis, which included a division of Jerusalem and a symbolic right of return. The Palestinian Authority president demanded a mass right of return.
It was because of this, and not because Olmert was nearing the end of his term, that Abbas rejected the offer. He said this in his own voice. There was no need for commentator analysis.
In the parallel Livni-Qurei track, there was significant progress. The Palestinian side understood that there would be no withdrawal from the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem. There were other arguments but there were also interim agreements that shouldn’t be scoffed at.
These agreements, despite not having been consolidated, were of serious value. In any future talks, the negotiators would know exactly what occurred with their predecessors.
This is precisely the reason why Europe, the Palestinians and the US government always demanded a cessation of settlement construction, but never raised the issue in relation to neighborhoods such as Gilo or Ramat Shlomo. Indeed, pursuing evacuation from these neighborhoods is not pursuing peace.
Primary aficionados of the peace process understand that making such a demand on Israel is like demanding the US evacuate Washington for the benefit of, say, Native Americans who may have once dwelt there.
In Ramat Shlomo and in Gilo, in comparison, there was never any Arab settlement.
SO WHAT has the Obama administration essentially done? It has persuaded the Palestinians to make demands they had already abandoned. If Obama demands Gilo and Ramat Shlomo, who are the Palestinians to take Binyamin Netanyahu’s side?
There are not many secrets relating to the basic parameters of a peace agreement. They can be found in the Clinton Parameters, or even in the Geneva Accords, which never received the two sides’ formal welcome.
Olmert reached the red line of the Israeli side’s capabilities with what he was offering during the Annapolis process. He even crossed that line when he agreed to a symbolic right of return. Supporters of the Geneva Accords – Yossi Beilin, the Israeli Left, and certainly Tzipi Livni – never called for that kind of concession. In fact, this is also true of the moderate Palestinians, who supported the Accords, and agreed to Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish neighborhoods of greater Jerusalem.
Until Obama came along, that is. To clarify, the president does not stand with the peace camp on the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Quite the opposite. In light of his recent behavior, it seems he stands with the side of the Palestinian refuseniks. There is a role to be played in pressuring Israel. Pressure is, after all, part of the game. But this time, we’re not just talking about pressure, we’re talking about bolstering Palestinian intransigence.
The big question now is: Will Obama admit his mistake, or will he insist on a demand that will strengthen the refusenik wing on the Palestinian side?
If the Obama administration wants to move forward on an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, it should go with the first option.
The writer is a regular columnist at Maariv.
PM: My policies haven't led to isolation
By HERB KEINON
Amid reports of Obama peace plan, gov't officials continue to back direct talks.
New al Qaeda Levant chief plans fresh assaults from Gaza, Lebanon
DEBKAfile Special Report April 6, 2010, 11:38 AM (GMT+02:00)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deflected criticism Wednesday that his policies had led to Israel’s international isolation, saying Israel was being criticized for the policies of every government over the last 42 years.
At a press conference where Netanyahu rolled out a report compiled by his office on the government’s achievements during its first year in office, Netanyahu said that while his government had “worked toward peace,” the Palestinians, “supported by others,” had refused to enter the process.
“If as a result of this, Israel is being criticized for things it has done for 42 years, under all Israeli governments, that is not my policy, but the policy of all Israeli governments,” he said in a reference to continued construction in all parts of Jerusalem.
“There is a change in the world, and it is flowing from the progress of extreme Islam in our region – not only in our region – and it has not been stopped until now,” he said.
In an oblique reference to the Obama administration, which has been arguing that a continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides a rallying cry and recruits for radical Islam, Netanyahu said that “there are those who want to put the responsibility on Israel, but anyone who looks at the matters fully will see that is not the case, and it is not connected to specific steps of this government.”
Netanyahu bewailed the fact that until now the international community has failed to come up with a response to Islamic extremism and its armament, saying the world must decide whether to get used to this phenomenon, or fight it.
“This has ramifications for our region and the peace process,” he said. “What we saw over the last year, from the first day, before this government took even one step, was that the Palestinians simply climbed up the tree and said, ‘We’re not going into negotiations, we have all kinds of conditions.’”
Netanyahu disputed the characterization that the whole world was against Israel. He said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had begun lambasting Israel immediately after Operation Cast Lead and before he had come into office, and added that “there are many countries in the world who perhaps criticize us, but are interested in relations with us and ties in the fields of technology, agriculture, water and security.”
Netanyahu also played down the widely reported tension with the US, saying that the discussions with the US were continuing, “and do not exactly correspond to what is reported. That doesn’t mean there are no disagreements. There are things that we agree on, that we don’t agree on, and where we are bridging the gaps. But it is much different from part of the things that I read in the press.”
The prime minister was unwilling to give any information about the demands the US administration had made, or on whether US President Barack Obama had called for an end to construction in east Jerusalem. Netanyahu said the lack of leaks about the conversation with the administration testified to the seriousness of the discussions. He said much of what was being written regarding the US demands was merely speculation.
Asked whether he stood by his pre-election promise not to dismantle settlements, Netanyahu responded, “What has changed?”
In a related development, government officials reacted to a report in Wednesday’s Washington Post that Obama was “seriously considering” proposing an American peace plan, by saying Israel felt direct negotiations with the Palestinians remained the best path for coming up with a peace plan that would work.
A plan to which both sides agree among themselves, rather than one imposed by an outside party, has a better chance of success, the official said.
Israeli officials have been saying for months that the Palestinians are staying out of the talks in the hope that this will spur the US, or the Europeans, into imposing a plan.
The Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote a column in the paper’s op-ed section Wednesday quoting a top administration official as saying that an American plan, if launched, “would build upon past progress on such issues as borders, the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.”
He quoted another top administration official as saying that “‘90 percent of the map would look the same’ as what has been agreed in previous bargaining.”
According to the column, the peace plan would be linked with confronting Iran.
“We want to get the debate away from settlements and east Jerusalem and take it to a 30,000-feet level that can involve Jordan, Syria and other countries in the region,” Ignatius quoted one of the officials as saying.
Ignatius wrote that Obama was considering an in-depth interagency review on the issue, similar to the one that produced his strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The idea of launching a peace plan was apparently shared, Ignatius wrote, by six former national security advisers who met every few month at the behest of current National Security Adviser Jim Jones. The forum consists of Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell, Sandy Berger, Frank Carlucci and Robert McFarlane.
This plan, according to the report, would reverse the administrations’ current strategy, championed by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, of coaxing concessions from Israel and the Palestinians and then stepping in and offering “bridging proposals” down the line.
How Israelis View U.S.-Israel Relations
New al Qaeda regional chief: Saleh Al-Qaraawi
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Some are calling the recent dispute between the U.S. and Israel over Israel's building in Jerusalem the worst diplomatic crisis in more than three decades. But how are Israelis feeling about the state of relations between the two countries?
The crisis began nearly one month ago during a visit from U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden when a local planning board approved the construction of 1,600 more apartments in a Jerusalem neighborhood, a location Israel felt it had a legitimate right to build in.
But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the announcement "insulting." Later in the month, the White House refused to allow the press to cover a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many in Israel and in the U.S. saw the incident as an unprecedented public snub to an Israeli leader. These actions and others by the Obama administration have many Israelis worried.
"On the one hand people I think people in Israel are very confident about the shared values, the shared heritage, the shared relationship and even the shared and common enemies that we face particularly after 9/11," said Ranann Gissen, former advisor to the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "But they're quite worried about the president. They're quite worried about the publicized expression and his background and they don't know because they were used to different kinds of presidents."
What the Polls Say
A recent poll showed an overwhelming majority of Israelis feel the Obama administration's attack on Israel for building in Jerusalem was "out of proportion." Seventy-five percent of Israelis felt the Obama administration overreacted, according to the IMRA (Independent Media Review Analysis).
The recent crisis seems to reinforce the view many Israelis share about the Obama administration.
For example, another recent poll conducted by Smith Research showed just 9 percent of Israelis feel the Obama administration is pro-Israel.
Obama Targeting Iran -- or Israel?
Some suspect the Obama administration is more interested in regime change in Israel than in Iran. Gissen believes the crisis over building in Jerusalem obscures the real danger in the Middle East, a nuclear Iran.
"There's a critical question," Gissen said. "A strategic critical question and that is what's going to be on the agenda, Jerusalem which cannot be resolved right now or Iran. We've got to put Iran on the agenda and take Jerusalem off the agenda."
But whether the agenda will change remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Iran has issued a warning saying that if Israel launches an attack, the Iranians will strike back by launching missiles at Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu Will Attend U.S. Nuclear Summit
JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will join more than 40 world leader's next week at the U.S.-sponsored nuclear security summit in Washington.
Shaul Horev, director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and National Security Advisor Uzi Arad will be among the senior officials accompanying the prime minister.
While President Barack Obama plans to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Chinese President Hu Jintao, among others, he will not meet with Netanyahu, citing their recent visit and time constraints.
On Tuesday, Obama presented his administration's nuclear policy, which some analysts believe compromises U.S. national security.
In one of several significant shifts from former President George W. Bush, Obama's policy restricts U.S. use of nuclear arms, rejects the development of new atomic weaponry and calls for more cuts in America's stockpile.
The new policy states that the U.S. military will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if attacked with biological or chemical weapons.
If, however, the government believes the U.S. would be subject to a devastating biological attack, the plan provides the option of reconsidering the use of a nuclear deterrent.
Obama also banned the use of terrorist terminology such as Islamic extremism and jihad ("holy" war) from the policy.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Israel will not be negatively impacted by the Obama administration's policy shift, especially regarding Iran.
Following a phone call from U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher on Tuesday, Ayalon said the White House will continue to support Israel's traditional policy of ambiguity concerning its nuclear capabilities.
"Israel and the U.S. see eye to eye on the Iranian issue," Ayalon said. "The latest statements from Washington show their patience has been stretched to the limit ," he said.
Because Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Israeli delegation may be subjected to verbal attacks by Arab and Muslim leaders at the summit.
Israel has maintained a policy of ambiguity – not confirming or denying its possession of nuclear weapons, though some experts say Israel has a stockpile of nuclear weapons – as a deterrent policy because it is surrounded by Arab countries traditionally forsworn to its destruction.
In introductory interviews to Islamist websites, Saleh Al-Qaraawi, the newly-appointed al Qaeda chief in the Levant (Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories) threatens to loose a fresh wave of attacks on US and Israeli targets as well as UN peacekeepers in South Lebanon. debkafile
's counter-terror sources report that Al-Qaraawi (aka Star of Piety), a Saudi aged 40, is on the oil kingdom's list of 85 most wanted terrorists. He is married to the daughter of another terrorist high on the wanted list, Sheikh Hazeima.
Al Qaeda's sites present Al Qaraawi as Commander of the "Abdullah Azzam Brigades," named for Osama bin Laden's precursor as the jihadi organization's founding ideologue in the late 1980s.
He is thought to be a personal appointee of al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Zuwahri, who is chief of operations for the Middle East region.
In one of the interviews, the new man says the time has come to intensify attacks on Israel from two bases: the Gaza Strip, where al Qaeda has established a stronghold, and Lebanon.
Our military sources report that the cluster of groups affiliated to al Qaeda, which have sprung up in the Gaza Strip under the Jalalat umbrella, keep their hand in with the occasional Qassam or mortar attack across the border into Israel. But most of their energies go into building up their power base in the southern areas of Khan Younes and Deir al-Balakh and pushing Hamas out. Building on Al Qaraawi's rich operational experience in Saudi Arabia - high command of the Saudi arena is said to be on his resume - his new job is to inject fresh impetus into cross-border offensives from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
As for assaults on US targets in the Levant area, al Qaeda plans to use the Kingdom of Jordan as its main arena, as it has in the past.
Al Qaeda's most ambitious operation from Gaza was mounted eleven months ago, on June 8, 2009, when a large contingent of raiders, some on horseback, swept across the border at several points from north to south.
An estimated 10 gunmen attacked a Golani infantry patrol and tried to kidnap Israeli soldiers. In the ensuing battle, a back-up al Qaeda force fired mortars from inside the Gaza Strip.
That operation failed in its purpose but demonstrated the scale of attacks the Islamist organization is planning to mount from the Gaza Strip against southern Israel.
Three months later, on Sept 11 2009, al Qaeda marked the date of its New York atrocity by firing two 122mm Grad missiles from the Qlaileh area in South Lebanon into Western Galilee, where they exploded on open ground near Kibbutz Gesher Haziv.
Defense minister Ehud Barak informed Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi Tuesday, April 6, that his four-year tenure as IDF chief of staff would not be extended when it runs out next February. This decision was approved by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
's military sources report that neither was satisfied that Ashkenazi's performance and strategic approach were appropriate in the light of current security threats.
Both hold his military ability in high esteem, but since he was hurriedly appointed chief of staff in early 2007, Ashkenazi has shown little appetite for turning his talents into proactive field combat.
In the early 2009 Cast Lead operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, our sources report Barak and Ashkenazi did not work well together. At the time, the defense minister was highly impressed by the decisiveness and tactics employed in the operation by the far more hawkish OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant.
Ashkenazi virtually blocked Galant's path as his successor by vetoing his promotion to deputy chief of staff, the usual jumping-off slot to the top post. The prime minister and defense minister decided nonetheless that the commander of the Gaza sector was the tough, practical leader the armed forces need at a time of looming peril from a nuclearized Iran and its allies and the unsettled situation on two of Israel's borders. The transition is expected to begin shortly.
In a statement Tuesday night, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi explained he had not applied for a fifth-year extension because he fully approved of the government's unanimous decision when he took the job not to extend the tenure of any chief of staff beyond four years - except in extraordinary emergency circumstances. "We face complicated security problems and exceptional challenges from near and far which oblige is all to focus on essentials - and that is what we shall do," said the chief of staff.