From left, Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is expected to soon name Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot to succeed Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz atop the IDF.
Eizenkot’s main competition is one of his predecessors as the No. 2 at the General Staff, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Naveh.
The prime minister and the cabinet are involved in the selection process as well, but generally speaking, the defense minister gets his pick.
Ya’alon has already gotten positive feedback on selecting Eizenkot from former IDF chiefs Gabi Ashkenazi and Dan Halutz and former defense ministers Ehud Barak and Amir Peretz. (The latter is currently environmental protection minister.) Ya’alon is expected to discuss his choice with former defense minister and IDF chief (and current Kadima chairman) Shaul Mofaz, former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and former deputy IDF chiefs Moshe Kaplinsky and Dan Harel (currently director-general of the Defense Ministry.) While the above officials also gave Naveh positive reviews, most reports focus on Ya’alon’s strong current working relationship with Eizenkot and his appointment allowing Ya’alon to continue the Defense Ministry-IDF relations as they have run under Gantz.
However, the appointment of Eizenkot could breathe new life into the Harpaz Affair that has hovered over the General Staff like a shadow since 2010.
The affair involves a range of narratives, but the background was a bureaucratic war between then-defense minister Barak and then-IDF Chief Ashkenazi, which allegedly went as far as the sides spying on each other, over various powers within the defense establishment and who would succeed Ashkenazi.
The police have recommended indicting Ashkenazi and several other former high command officials and recently new evidence cropped up that could shine the spotlight back on alleged improprieties of Barak.
Ashkenazi opposed Barak’s initial choice of Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, who eventually withdrew his candidacy due to unrelated allegations, paving the way for Gantz, who was clear of the Harpaz Affair and other scandals.
Eizenkot, however, was somewhat involved in the affair as he was given a copy of the Harpaz Document, a forged document (Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz is the alleged forger) used to try to undermine Galant’s candidacy, shared it with Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni and failed to report it to Barak.
Siboni eventually leaked it to Channel 2 News without telling Eizenkot or Ashkenazi’s former top aide Col. Erez Viner that he would do so, which led to exposing the affair.
Still, Barak forgave Eizenkot and pushed for his appointment to his current post, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein eventually supported the appointment and the High Court of Justice rejected a petition to block his appointment.
There is a fair chance that his opponents or NGOs committed to clean governance may file a new petition to block any appointment to the top post and that Eizenkot may be drawn in to testify as a witness at any trial of other indicted persons, and that may extend the affair’s shadow over the current IDF.
But Weinstein approved Eizenkot’s candidacy again, this time for the top IDF post, in recent days – as well as Naveh’s candidacy – which should limit any serious opposition.
Ya’alon is expected to announce his decision soon, with Gantz due to step down in February and there traditionally being a period of overlapping months between chiefs of staff to allow the new IDF chief to settle in gradually.
Eizenkot served in and was eventually commander of the Golani Brigade.
In 1999, he became Barak’s military liaison when Barak was prime minister.
Eizenkot eventually rose to head of the Northern Command in 2006, replacing Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam, who resigned following criticism over the conduct of the Second Lebanon War.