A-G: Unclear if gov't can appoint new IDF chief of staff pre-elections

The legal adviser for the Defense Ministry would need to specify why Gantz views appointing a new IDF chief of staff as necessary.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara announced on Wednesday that she would need more details from the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser before deciding whether Defense Minister Benny Gantz can appoint a new IDF chief of staff with elections on the horizon.

On one hand, she said, appointments during election season are discouraged; at the same time, appointments are not banned across the board, and there could be exceptions that meet a standard for the state having a necessity.

The attorney-general said the legal adviser for the Defense Ministry would need to specify why Gantz views appointing a new IDF chief of staff as necessary.

In addition, the issue could be influenced by whether he is able to make the appointment before the current government formally disperses, or only after election season formally starts, which won’t happen before next week.

Traditionally, election season appointments are discouraged so as to avoid politicization, real or perceived.

 Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz gives a statement to the media at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, on March 30, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz gives a statement to the media at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, on March 30, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Gantz's comments

Gantz responded on Wednesday to criticism over the appointment process, saying he was not trying to race against time to make an inappropriate appointment. Rather, his appointment process was proper and comprehensive, and was a “vital strategic, security and organizational interest of the highest level.”

Gantz also said he would consult with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu about the appointment before making a decision.

Gantz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that he would soon move aggressively to appoint a new IDF chief, to avoid the process being held hostage by politics.

“We have a great IDF chief of staff, but he is finishing in six months,” he said. “To maintain stability, we need to appoint a new IDF chief of staff” soon, as well as to allow him to promptly select his own new deputy.

“We have a great IDF chief of staff… but he is finishing in six months. To maintain stability, we need to appoint a new IDF chief of staff.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz

“There are great and professional candidates for the IDF chief of staff position, and I am consulting with the prime minister [about the appointment]. Any attempt to color the decision as political is false and harms the basis of our power. I call on all rivals to leave the IDF outside of the fires of politics."

Gantz said the IDF would not be in a position where it had to have a “temporary acting chief of staff. I will not let happen to the IDF like what happened to the police for two years,” where the politicians could not agree on a new permanent chief and a weakened acting chief ran things on a temporary basis.

The three lead candidates are the current IDF deputy chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Hersti Halevi; former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir; and former IDF Northern Commander Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick.

Gantz started the process last week, but these were his most comprehensive comments on the issue to date.Halevi is reportedly the leading candidate, but some on the Right prefer Zamir, who was helped up the chain of command by then-prime minister Netanyahu, for whom he had worked as a personal military secretary.

With a new election potentially on the horizon, Gantz knew he might run into some legal obstacles getting the appointment through during a transitional government.

However, by starting the process before the election starts, he hoped to strengthen his argument that allowing the appointment to go through is just government business as usual, not election-period politicking.

Gantz noted that he has already interviewed Halevi and Zamir, and plans to soon interview Strick.