Analysis: What Eisenkot will face as the new IDF chief of staff

Amid a sea of growing threats, Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot will bring a coolheaded professionalism to the job.

Deputy Chief of IDF Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Deputy Chief of IDF Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who will take over the reins of the IDF in February as chief of staff, will preside over the military during what could be one of the most critical periods in national and regional security.
The chances that the coming years will be docile and quiet seem low. Instead, Eisenkot will mostly likely steer the military ship through rough seas, in which old threats with new weapons challenge Israel alongside new, chaotic regional forces.
Eisenkot is coolheaded, calculated, experienced and a highly professional military chief, armed with a quiet determination and modesty that tends to win over others.
In the past, he has not hesitated to affirm his views, and he oversaw improvements under his areas of responsibility.
His considerable operational experience spans various command positions in the Golani infantry brigade, before presiding over the Judea and Samaria Division, the Northern Command, and the Operations Branch in the General Staff. This means he has been shaped by a good balance of combat and central headquarters roles.
The shrewd future chief of staff will have to bring all of those skills to bear while focusing on keeping millions of citizens safe from a range of threats.
At the top of those threats is the Iranian nuclear program, an issue that may come to a head in July, only five months after Eisenkot takes up his position.
July is when the extended round of talks between the P5+1 countries and Tehran will come to an end. Eisenkot will have to ensure that all operational contingencies for dealing with a poor outcome, or the detection of an Iranian nuclear program transgression, are in place, as well as plans for dealing with the immediate repercussions of potential military action.
Closer to home, Eisenkot, who is a firm believer in the power of Israeli deterrence, will also work to ensure that the IDF is prepared to act in case that deterrence breaks down against the most significant military threat in the country’s immediate surroundings, Hezbollah.
With its 100,000 rockets and missiles, Hezbollah attacks on the home front could pose a challenge unlike any seen yet, in the event of a conflict with the terrorist organization.
Eisenkot, as deputy chief of staff, had a key role in overseeing the IDF’s air and ground preparations to meet this threat, and may activate these plans in the future. If deterrence continues to hold, Eisenkot will seek to make sure that operational plans are relevant and, where necessary, will make revisions.
No less important will be the need to closely monitor Hezbollah’s ongoing weapons- smuggling program.
In Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are gradually reconstructing their offensive rocket capabilities. Although a resumption of hostilities seems unlikely soon, the IDF must prepare for a new round of violence there. A future clash may not end with a truce like previous conflicts, but with an order by the government to destroy Hamas as a guerrilla-terrorist force in the Gaza Strip.
In the West Bank, Eisenkot will likely seek to ensure that violence in east Jerusalem does not spread to Palestinian areas and morph into a new wave of mass violence.
He will also be overseeing the Central Command’s efforts to continue to deny Hamas the opportunity rebuild its terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.
In addition to all of the above, during Eisenkot’s tenure the country formally known as Syria will continue to host radical jihadi groups led by the Islamic State, which may end up launching attacks on the North. From Sinai and possibly Jordan, al-Qaida-affiliated groups might attempt to target Israel.
Amid this heavy workload, Eisenkot, like his predecessor, can be expected to continue the IDF’s campaign for a sufficient defense budget.
A high enough budget will allow the military to build up the necessary force to deal with a myriad of challenges, amass enough firepower and equipment, and sustain adequate levels of training for both conscripts and reserves.
Without these components, the country’s expectation of a military that can spring into action and respond correctly to attacks will be unrealistic.