Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Levy dies at 72

12th chief of staff succumbs to stroke he suffered last week; Lipkin-Shahak: Levy rebuilt the IDF.

Moshe Levy 224.88 (photo credit: IDF )
Moshe Levy 224.88
(photo credit: IDF )
The 12th IDF chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen (res.) Moshe Levy, who took over command of the IDF in the aftermath of the First Lebanon War, died Monday night at Haemek Hospital in Afula. He was 71. Levy had been hospitalized after suffering a severe stroke on January 1. His funeral is scheduled to take place Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at the military cemetery of kibbutz Beit Alfa. Nicknamed "Moishe Vehetsi" - "Moshe-and-a-half" - due to his towering height (he was two meters tall), Levy served as chief of staff from 1983 to 1987, then retired from the IDF after a career spanning 33 years. Moshe Arens, the defense minister who appointed Levy as army chief, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that Levy was "singularly devoted to the army" and that, unlike other senior military figures, he had never let personal political views influence his military leadership. He was a "soldier's soldier," Arens said. "When he was appointed, he said to me, 'I hope I don't disappoint you,' and he never did. He was an excellent chief of staff." One of Levy's successors, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, told Israel Radio that Levy had rebuilt and restored the IDF after the Lebanon war. He oversaw the creation of the so-called "security zone" that Israel maintained as a buffer in southern Lebanon until May 2000. The disappearance of navigator Ron Arad, whose plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986, also took place during his tenure. President Shimon Peres described Levy as "a serious person whose seriousness was part of his character. He weighed every issue carefully, but not patronizingly. He was exceptionally courageous and committed, and throughout his service, his actions were free of controversy." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Levy was "a great fighter" who "used all his energy and capabilities to further establish the strength of the IDF." Born in 1936 in Tel Aviv to a family of Iraqi descent, Levy was the first IDF chief of Middle Eastern descent and the first to have begun his military career in the IDF itself, rather than in the pre-state underground fighting forces. Drafted into the Golani infantry brigade in 1954, Levy joined the newly formed Paratroopers Brigade shortly afterward and took part in the legendary parachute drop into the Mitla Pass during the 1956 Sinai Campaign. He rose steadily through the ranks to command the Jordan Valley Brigade between 1968 and 1970 - a period marked by numerous operations targeting terrorist infiltrators from Jordan. Levy subsequently served in senior positions that included head of the operations division in the General Staff, OC Central Command, head of the Operations Directorate and deputy chief of staff. Among the institutional changes he made were the combination of several field units under a single umbrella, and the acquisition of updated weapons systems. After his retirement, Levy returned to Beit Alfa. He served for some years on the Israeli Electric Corporation (IEC) board, and his last public post was as chairman of the board of the Route 6 company. Levy is survived by his wife, five children and five grandchildren. AP contributed to this report.