A chief of staff with no strategic vision coupled with a defense minister with no security expertise is a recipe for disaster - especially if the prime minister is also not well-versed in strategic matters.
The defense troika that existed until this week was the worst that Israel has ever known. There have been weak chiefs of staff before, but they were compensated for by strong defense ministers. Thus in choosing the next chief of staff, the cabinet must consider who is most likely to replace Amir Peretz as defense minister. The most likely candidates are Ami Ayalon and Ehud Barak.
Additionally, the appointment process must be quick. Peretz was right to start interviewing senior officers immediately. Yesterday, he met with Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky and commander of the ground forces Benny Gantz, and he plans other meetings with both regular and reserve officers in the coming days.
However, it is troubling that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is doing the same thing. By law, choosing the next chief of staff is not his job, and it is liable to lead to an ugly fight. Olmert and Peretz must overcome their differences and coordinate their choice. Doing otherwise would merely worsen the rift in the country's leadership, which would further undermine Israel's deterrence effect and gladden only our enemies.
It is clear that the IDF has undergone a shock: This is the first time a chief of staff has resigned of his own accord. Other senior officers have also resigned: GOC Northern Command Udi Adam and a divisional commander, Gal Hirsch. The latter, however, is willing to return, and with Dan Halutz having resigned, he should be brought back and given a suitable job.
The situation is particularly problematic because the IDF recently fought a war about which controversy still rages. This affects the criteria for choosing a new chief of staff.
On the personal level, it is necessary to pick someone who has professional authority and outstanding leadership capabilities, is apolitical and independent, and who was not associated with major failures during the war, and can therefore apply the lessons that have been learned from it.
The choice should also be determined by the threats Israel faces. The new chief of staff must, of course, be able to lead the army in an asymmetric war. But the biggest threat is Iran. The worse-case scenario is that it will acquire nuclear weapons, but even without these, Iran has proven its ability to target Israel with missile launches and terror attacks carried out by organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.