Benny Gantz 311 R.
(photo credit: Reuters)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz dismissed reports Monday that he
is under pressure to appoint Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s military
adviser, Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, as the next commander of the Israel
Gantz was responding to media reports claiming that the
selection of the next IAF commander – to replace Maj.- Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who
will step down in April – was out of his hands.
On Sunday, Gantz and
Barak sparred on the issue at a meeting in the Knesset. Barak claimed that
defense ministers should be involved in selecting the IAF commander, while Gantz
said that the appointment was like any other general in the IDF and should be
determined by the chief of staff.
“I have never been pressured and have
never been spoken to about this,” Gantz said on Monday, during a military
“I make the appointments in the IDF according to what I think
is right. This is how it has always been and this is how it is now as
In December, The Jerusalem Post
reported that Barak and Netanyahu
were trying to influence Gantz’s decision on the identity of Nehushtan’s
successor and that it was possible that the candidate’s opinions on the
viability of a strike against Iran was playing a role in the
The leading contenders for the post are Locker and OC Planning
Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel. Brig.-Gen. Nimrod Shefer, the current
deputy commander of the air force, has also been interviewed for the post, but
his chances are believed to be slim.
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The appointment of a new air force
chief traditionally makes headlines in Israel, but this time it is particularly
intriguing due to the possibility that the next commander will be ordered by the
government to oversee a strike on Iran’s well-protected and distant atomic
As a result, there is speculation that the next commander
will be selected based on his opinions regarding the chances of such an attack’s
Eshel, who was deputy commander of the IAF from 2006 to 2008, is
considered the front-runner. As head of the Planning Directorate, which is
responsible for IDF’s external affairs, Eshel has developed close ties with the
Pentagon and other militaries around the world.
Locker is also believed
to have strong chances due to his close relationship with
While the IDF chief of staff appoints members of the General
Staff, the appointment needs to be approved by Barak, who has intervened
recently in a number of key military appointments.
The Prime Minister’s
Office rejected the reports and said Netanyahu had not spoken with Gantz about
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