Former air force commander set to be next Israeli army chief
Israel's Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Dan Halutz is set to become the next Israeli military chief of staff. Israeli Defense Minister Saul Mofaz announced on Tuesday that he will recommend to the government that Halutz be appointed chief of staff in place of Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon.
The cabinet is expected to back the appointment.
Halutz has been the leading contender to replace Ya'alon since it was announced last week that Ya'alon's term of office would not be extended for a customary fourth year.
Halutz is set to take over as head of the military just 11 days before the implementation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's so-called "disengagement plan", which calls for the evacuation of the entire Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.
Halutz, 56, became commander of the Israel Air Force in 2000 and was appointed deputy chief of staff in 2004.
Last month, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition by several Israeli left-wing politicians and organizations to block Halutz's appointment as Deputy Chief of Staff. The petitioners claimed that Halutz was unfit for the post because of what they called his "brutal violation of the ethical code of war" and a "lack of remorse" over the deaths of Palestinian bystanders in an attack on a Gaza Strip house.
In July 2002, the Israeli air force carried out a targeted strike against senior Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in Gaza. Shehadeh was killed, along with 14 others in his immediate vicinity. According to the affidavit submitted by General Halutz, who was air force commander at the time, he told the pilots involved in the mission that "they can sleep soundly, and that their performance was perfect."
Arab Israeli MK Mohammed Barakeh slammed the appointment saying it was "a disgrace that cannot be wiped away. It is unsurprising that Sharon and Mofaz preferred to appoint [Halutz] as Chief of Staff rather than shoving him out of the army. After all they are a violent trio that lacks any values and humane norms."