IDF Chief of Staff candidates: Gantz narrows list down to two

The two final contenders are IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevy and former Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir.

 former Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
former Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The race to replace IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has been narrowed down to two contenders, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced on Sunday.

The two candidates are IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevy and former deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir.

While Halevi is reportedly the leading candidate, some on the Right prefer Zamir, who was helped up the chain of command by Benjamin Netanyahu when he was still prime minister.

The former head of the Southern Command, Zamir was also a leading candidate to replace former chief of staff Lt.-Gen.(ret.) Gadi Eisenkot in 2018.

Zamir spent most of his career in the Armored Corps and commanded the Seventh Armored Brigade as well the Ga’ash Division. He held a number of key positions in the Ground Forces Command before serving as the military aide to Netanyahu, a key position in which he acted as the former prime minister’s chief military and intelligence affairs adviser.

Major General Herzi Halevi, Commanding Officer of the IDF Southern Command speaks during the conference of the Israeli Television News Company in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Major General Herzi Halevi, Commanding Officer of the IDF Southern Command speaks during the conference of the Israeli Television News Company in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Halevi replaced Zamir as head of the Southern Command when he was appointed deputy chief of staff, a position for which the third candidate, Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick, was in the running.

Gantz spoke with Strick, the former commander of the Ground Forces, on Sunday morning to update him on the decision.

He thanked him for his contributions to the IDF and said he was “confident that he will continue to contribute to the IDF and the defense establishment in the years to come,” according to a statement released from Gantz’s office.

Deputy Chief of Staff- Major General Eyal Zamir speaks at a graduating ceremony for new Israel Navy Officers in Haifa Naval Base, Northern Israel on September 4, 2019. (credit: FLASH90)Deputy Chief of Staff- Major General Eyal Zamir speaks at a graduating ceremony for new Israel Navy Officers in Haifa Naval Base, Northern Israel on September 4, 2019. (credit: FLASH90)

The announcement followed Thursday’s decision by Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara to approve the defense minister’s request to appoint a new chief of staff during election season.

She said next year presented major security challenges that could not wait to be addressed by delaying the appointment process.

Gantz welcomed what he called a “responsible decision,” saying the appointment of a chief of staff to replace Kohavi “is of great importance in terms of the IDF’s continuity of command and the security of the State of Israel. Israel currently has an excellent chief of staff, and Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi will continue to fulfill his role and lead the IDF with quality, as he has done to date. Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi is of great importance in terms of the IDF’s continuity of command and the security of the State of Israel.”

Herzli Halevi, incoming deputy chief of staff with outgoing deputy chief of staff Eyal Zamir during a ceremony at Hakirya base in Tel Aviv, July 11, 2021. (credit: FLASH90)Herzli Halevi, incoming deputy chief of staff with outgoing deputy chief of staff Eyal Zamir during a ceremony at Hakirya base in Tel Aviv, July 11, 2021. (credit: FLASH90)

"Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi is of great importance in terms of the IDF’s continuity of command and the security of the State of Israel"

Defense Minister Gantz

Gantz added that the process of choosing the next top military officer will be done “on time and in an orderly process. I will continue to conduct the process in an orderly, stately manner and free from any political consideration, and in consultation with all relevant parties. All of this is based on a broad view of the security needs and the challenges facing the State of Israel.

Kohavi is scheduled to finish his term in January 2023.

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to the report