PM Postpones Vote on Interim Chief of Staff

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed Thursday's cabinet vote to approve Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh as acting chief of staff for 60 days.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu cancelled the appointment of incoming IDF chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, who was scheduled to be sworn in on February 14. It was the first time in Israel's history that the appointment of an incoming chief of staff was cancelled.

In September, the Green Party submitted a petition to the High Court accusing Galant of inappropriate land acquisitions to his property in Moshav Amikam. On Tuesday, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he would not defend Galant's appointment in court.

The prime minister's decision to appoint an interim chief of staff was made at the request of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who reportedly has a less than ideal relationship with outgoing Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. Barak requested that Ashkenazi's tenure not be extended.

Several cabinet ministers and Knesset members opposed appointing a temporary chief of staff.

Strategic Affairs Minister and former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon told Israel Radio on Wednesday the obvious solution is to extend Ashkenazi's term.

"The process of the last few months hurt the IDF, the chief of staff, General Galant, Chief of Staff Ashkenazi and the entire government's status," Ya'alon said.

Kadima MK and former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz also criticized the appointment.

"The decision that was accepted yesterday [Wednesday] by the defense minister and prime minister does not reflect what is right and needed for Israel at this time," he said.

Mofaz said his criticism was not directed at Naveh, but rather at the "inevitable feeling that ego and personal considerations made the decision not to extend the current chief of staff's term."

In view of the volatile situation in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, "the government should have acted differently," Mofaz said.

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