Aviv Kochavi takes over from Yair Golan as IDF deputy chief
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Aviv Kochavi takes over from Yair Golan as IDF deputy chief

Muni Katz replaces Tal Russo as head of mysterious Depth Corps; Liberman says army's 'human element' has no parallel

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Incoming Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi Golan shakes hands with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot at a ceremony in the army's Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Incoming Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi Golan shakes hands with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot at a ceremony in the army's Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi took over as IDF deputy chief of staff at a small ceremony in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters on Thursday afternoon.

Kochavi, who previously served as head of the Northern Command, replaced Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, who is leaving the military after 37 years to pursue “academic studies,” the army said in a statement.

Golan made waves in Israel last year for a speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day in which he compared aspects of Israeli society with pre-World War II Germany. His comments deepened a rift between then-defense minister Moshe Yaalon, who defended Golan, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who denounced the remarks.

Also Thursday, at the same event, Maj. Gen. Muni Katz was promoted from brigadier general and took command of the army’s Depth Corps, a relatively secretive branch of the military, responsible for IDF operations beyond Israel’s borders.

Katz replaced Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo, who has served in the position as a reservist since February 2015.

Both IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attended the ceremony, which was held in Eisenkot’s conference room.

From left, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Maj. Gen. Muni Katz raise a toast at a ceremony in the army's Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
From left, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Maj. Gen. Muni Katz raise a toast at a ceremony in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

“The human element is the most important aspect of the IDF, and as I look at the people in this room, I am calm. The human element here today has no equal in any other military,” Liberman said.

Kochavi, 53, also served as the head of Military Intelligence during the 2014 Gaza war, and in a number of other high-profile positions, including commander of the Paratroopers Brigade. He has long been considered a rising star in the IDF, though his efforts during the Gaza operation were criticized in a state comptroller report released in February.

Russo, who led the Southern Command during a 2012 Gaza campaign, is a rare breed in the IDF, having received his officer’s commission through courageous action in wartime, rather than through the standard officer’s training course.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, right, promotes Muni Katz to major general at a ceremony in the army's Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, right, promotes Muni Katz to major general at a ceremony in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

His replacement, Katz, previously served as head of the Ground Forces Training Center, but was also a part of the team that created the Depth Corps in 2011, under the direction of then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.

“Receiving the rank [of major general], joining the General Staff forum and taking command of the Depth Corps is a very exciting thing, something that gives me pride and great satisfaction, and carries with it a great debt of responsibility and represents for me a sense of closure,” Katz said.

Golan, who has served as Eisenkot’s deputy since 2014, praised the chief of staff for leading the military “with great wisdom,” for his courage and for his “extraordinary ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

Outgoing deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, left, shakes hands with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot at a ceremony in the army's Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Outgoing deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, left, shakes hands with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot at a ceremony in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters on May 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

In his speech, the army chief praised all four men for their contributions to Israel’s security over the years.

“I want to thank four wonderful commanders: Yair, whom I consider the epitome of the professional, curious, practical and courageous commander; Aviv, a superb and sharp commander, a man of thoughts and deeds, which we’ve seen throughout your positions, now arrives throughly prepared for the job, after leading the Northern Command,” Eisenkot said.

“Muni, who is promoted to a major general to command the Depth Corps, which is considered a functional necessity of the IDF; and I want to thank you, Tal, for your contribution, your actions, your long service, and in particular what you’ve done since you left the Southern Command [in 2013], and what you did in your own way,” he said.

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