Israel names Lebanon veteran as new army chief

Gaby Ashkenazy was named as the new army chief

Israel names Lebanon veteran as new army chief

Jerusalem: A former Israeli general with years of experience fighting Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas has been chosen as the chief of armed forces, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement on Monday.

Gaby Ashkenazy, 52, an infantry commander and currently director of the Defence Ministry, is set to replace Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz who quit last week over his failure to crush Hezbollah in the July-August war.

Olmert approved Defence Minister Amir Peretz's nomination of Ashkenazy during a meeting with Peretz. The appointment will be brought before a public committee headed by a retired judge and then put to a cabinet vote for final approval.

"The two (Olmert and Peretz) expressed their confidence in Ashkenazy's abilities to fulfill the role successfully and to implement the lessons of the Lebanon war," the prime minister's office said in its statement.

Ashkenazy served extensively in southern Lebanon and headed the army's northern command in the final years before Israeli troops, after constant attacks by Hezbollah fighters, withdrew in 2000.

Israeli media said Ashkenazy had in effect won the job after his leading rival for the post, deputy chief of staff Moshe Kaplinsky, wrote a letter to Peretz dropping out of the race.

Halutz, a former air force chief, tendered his resignation after months of public criticism of the military's failure to defeat Hezbollah, retrieve two captured soldiers or halt rocket attacks on the Jewish state during last summer's 34-day war.

Ashkenazy was not in uniform during the fighting in which some 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, most of them soldiers, were killed.

He was widely seen as a safe candidate to replace Halutz ahead of the preliminary findings, expected in several months, of a government-appointed panel examining the handling of the war by Israeli leaders and military commanders.

Ashkenazy, passed over in 2005 for the chief of staff post in favour of Halutz, is a veteran infantry commander who also trained in the tank corps.

Born in 1954 in the central Israel farming village of Hagor, he started his compulsory military service with the Golani infantry brigade in 1972.

Conscripted in 1972, Ashkenazy saw his first military action in the Sinai Peninsula against Egyptian troops in the 1973 Middle East war.

As a platoon leader in 1976, Ashkenazy took part in "Operation Entebbe", an Israeli commando raid in Uganda that rescued passengers held by Palestinian and German hijackers of an Air France flight that originated in Tel Aviv.

He served as a deputy brigade commander in the 1982 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon and headed the elite Golani infantry brigade from 1994 to 1996.

Ashkenazy was named northern command chief in 1998, two years before Israeli troops, under frequent attack by Hezbollah, withdrew from southern Lebanon. He was appointed deputy chief of staff in 2002 but retired from the army after Halutz beat him out for the top job.

Ashkenazi is a graduate of the Tel Aviv Military Academy, the Israeli General Staff College and the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College.

He has a bachelor's degree in political science and is a graduate of Harvard University's international business administration programme. He is married with a son and a daughter.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16