Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi took over as IDF chief of staff from Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi in a ceremony including the two together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant on Monday morning.
The first of the day's ceremonies started in the Prime Minister's Office with a present to outgoing Kohavi, after which Netanyahu and Galant awarded Halevi the rank of Lt.-Gen., the highest rank in the IDF.
הרמטכ"ל ה-23, אלוף הרצי הלוי, יצא לפני זמן קצר מביתו לעבר ירושלים pic.twitter.com/gNlFCppz4W— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) January 16, 2023
"Today I am assuming command of the Israel Defense Forces, the protector of the State of Israel and its citizens," said Halevi in his first speech as chief of staff. "When I enlisted, as a young man standing at the gates of the recruitment base, I did not plan such a long journey.
"Our answer to threats is our security advantage, in deterrence, advanced capabilities and high competence. Let our enemies know: What we say we also know how to carry out, and we are willing to carry out much more than what we say."
"We will prepare the IDF for war in far and near arenas, we will expand the quality recruitment for the IDF from all strata of the population - which is the source of our strength. We will strengthen the reserve army and keep the IDF united, factual, moral and professional, free from any consideration other than security."
Netanyahu thanked outgoing Kohavi: "In the face of the threats against us, mainly from Iran and its terrorist affiliates, we must demonstrate determination. This is what we have done in the last decade - including, Aviv [Kohavi], during the four years of your tenure as Chief of Staff in which you commanded the IDF - and this is what we will continue to do."
"The calm that prevails on our border with the Gaza Strip is a direct result of establishing deterrence through the IDF's iron fist," Netanyahu added.
"I will make sure that external pressures - political, legal and other - stop with me and do not reach the gates of the IDF," Galant promised in his speech at the ceremony in the Prime Minister's Office and added that "between authority and responsibility in the military system passes the concept of the unity of command. For each soldier and officer - one commander, and above all the Chief of Staff."
This statement is aimed at MK Bezalel Smotrich, who was granted certain authorities regarding the West Bank's Civil Administration. Kohavi previously objected to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the idea that anyone other than the IDF would determine Civil Administration policies.
After the ceremony, Halevi and Kohavi visited the memorial hall for fallen IDF soldiers on Mount Herzl together. Kohavi lay a wreath in memory of the fallen, and Halevi lit a memorial candle. The two were accompanied by soldiers from families of fallen soldiers.
Halevi later visited the Western Wall where he wrote an entry in the Western Wall Heritage Foundation's guest book.
"Here, in this place that carries the 3,000-year-old memory of the Jewish people, I swear to lead the IDF in defending the State of Israel and it's citizens out of the same values and spirit that led generations of soldiers and commanders in defending the state, the people and the country," he wrote.
President Herzog later praised the two Generals in his residence in Jerusalem, saying "This is a very exciting and happy moment, two of the best sons of the State of Israel taking turns in the command of the Israel Defense Forces." He added: "The IDF is out of the political debate! The IDF is vital to the State of Israel, the IDF is the basis of Israel's security."
A controversial appointment
Former defense minister Benny Gantz tapped Halevi as the 23rd chief of staff in September. The appointment was controversial because even though the selection process started before elections were called, the final appointment decision itself was made during the election campaign.
It is widely believed that had Benjamin Netanyahu been prime minister, he would have selected Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, who came in second in Gantz’s process.
Yonah Jeremy Bob and Walla! News contributed to this report.