Shorts: Mideast

Army chief to be replaced

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s army chief, who occasionally has criticized government policy, lost a bid to serve for another year.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced after consultations that Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon’s three-year tenure will not be extended when it ends July 9. Political analysts said the decision reflects dissatisfaction with public criticisms Ya’alon aired last year of government policy toward the Palestinians.

The contenders to become top Israeli general are Gabi Ashkenazi and Dan Halutz, both Ya’alon deputies. Critics noted that the decision means Israel will be replacing the leaders of both the army and the Shin Bet intelligence service on the eve of the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Travel advisory challenged

jerusalem (jta) | Jews and Christians asked President Bush to cancel a U.S. advisory against travel to Israel.

The petition to the White House was signed by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and evangelical Christian officials.

It calls for the State Department travel warning that encourages Americans to “defer travel” to Israel to be rescinded in response to the improved security situation. The advisory has been in place since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada in the fall of 2000.