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Bennett, Liberman battle for defense portfolio

The next Israeli defense minister, be it Moshe Ya'alon, Avigdor Liberman or Naftali Bennett, will have to cope, together with new IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, with a new reality in which Hezbollah targets Israel from the Syrian border.
The head of the northern Israeli command, Gadi Eisenkot, delivers a briefing to the press on August 3, 2010 in Kiryat Shmona along the tense border between Israel and Lebanon, following clashes between troops on both sides that left 3 Lebanese soldiers, a journalist and a a senior Israeli officer killed. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
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On Feb. 16, the 20th chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, will complete his four-year term and transfer the mantle of command to his heir, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who will be promoted to lieutenant general. As usual, the ceremony will be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, along with all the generals serving in the General Staff and other senior security officials. The question hanging over everyone at the event will be: Who will become defense minister after the general elections next month? Will Ya’alon remain in the position as most senior IDF officers want?

Two candidates for the position of defense minister have been keeping senior security officials and IDF officers awake at night. The first is Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who considered himself a candidate for the position before he started his nosedive in the polls. The second, more surprising candidate is Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who announced in a television interview Feb. 8 that he would only agree to enter the next coalition if he is appointed defense minister. Liberman’s announcement struck the IDF’s General Staff like lightning on a bright summer day. Now they are left wavering between him and Bennett, struggling to decide which is the lesser of two evils.

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