MAJ.-GEN. YOEL STRICK (left) walks with his predecessor at the Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, at the unit’s headquarters in Safed yesterday..
(photo credit: IDF)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi made his first appointments as army chief on Sunday, including appointing a new commander for the embattled Ground Forces.
Current Northern Command chief Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick will take over from Maj.-Gen. Kobi Barak, who has served in the position since 2016, and will be replaced in turn by the current commander of military colleges, Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram.
Kochavi also made three other major general-level appointments.
Brig.-Gen. Itai Virov, who served as chief of staff of the Ground Forces, will be promoted to major-general and will be appointed to the position of Commander of the Military Colleges. Brig.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, the current commander of the Gaza Division, will also be promoted to major-general and appointed to serve as IDF Attaché in Washington, replacing Maj.-Gen. Mickey Edelstein.
The appointments have been approved by Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will take effect in the coming months.
Both the Northern Command and Ground Forces are considered key roles for the IDF. The Northern Command is in charge of the tense Lebanese and Syrian border, while the Ground Forces have recently been the focus of much criticism and negative reports about their readiness for war.
Former IDF ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick has intensely criticized the IDF’s readiness for war. In January, former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan warned that “irreversible damage” caused by the military high command’s lack of confidence will lead them to avoid ground maneuvers during a future war.
According to a report by Ynet News, Golan – who will retire in March after losing to Kochavi for the top military position – warned about the lack of confidence of top brass regarding the capabilities of the IDF’s infantry, armored and engineering brigades.
The lack of confidence in the Ground Forces by top command in the IDF is sending messages that it is possible to win a war relying solely on the Air Force and Intelligence Directorate, Golan said.
“Without a ground operation inside enemy territory to stop missile fire, the blow to the home front will be too hard to bear, and the public will be traumatized in a way that the Yom Kippur War would look like a ‘walk in the park’ in comparison,” Golan wrote.
“This is a disastrous mindset,” he added. “It has grave ramifications to the younger generation of commanders, whose determination is dissolving. The standard in the Ground Forces has been reduced to the lowest standard there is. There is no aspiration for excellence. There’s no discipline and no demand of commitment. Each officer works as he understands.”
The report said that Golan submitted the document to the heads of the defense establishment, including Kochavi, his deputy Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, Netanyahu and former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot.
In December, IDF Comptroller Brig.-Gen. (res.) Ilan Harari, who conducted a 45-day investigation into issues of IDF readiness raised in Brick’s report, rejected his claims, claiming that there has been a significant improvement in the Ground Forces, which are “unequivocally prepared for war.”
While the IDF does not expect a war to break out in the near future, the tension along Israel’s northern border has risen in recent months.
According to a recent military intelligence assessment, if war breaks out in the North, not only will Hezbollah – who is trying to tighten its grip on the Syrian Golan Heights – take part, but so will the Syrian Army.
It is believed that in the event of another war with Hezbollah, the IDF’s objective would be to occupy parts of southern Lebanon where the group has support and infrastructure, to force a UN resolution that improves the security situation on the northern border.
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