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Bennett said seeking to interview candidates for IDF head, Gantz reluctant

Defense chief reportedly fears taking a backseat to PM in process traditionally assigned to minister; he is scheduled to interview candidates in coming days

From left to right: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a military drill in northern Israel on November 16, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
From left to right: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a military drill in northern Israel on November 16, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is reportedly at odds with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over the latter’s demand to interview candidates for the next IDF chief of staff, a task traditionally left to the defense minister.

According to a Kan report Thursday, Gantz told Bennett he was unwilling to be a rubber stamp on the appointment.

Sources close to Gantz told Kan that he and Bennett will discuss the issue.

The candidates for the next IDF chief named by Gantz on Monday are Eyal Zamir, a former IDF deputy chief of staff currently serving as a research fellow at a think tank in Washington; Herzi Halevi, the current deputy chief of staff; and Yoel Strick, a former commander of the military’s ground forces, also serving as a research fellow at another Washington think tank.

According to a schedule released by his office, Gantz will meet with Zamir on Saturday night, Strick on Tuesday and Halevi on Wednesday to “verify their readiness to run for the role, and to hear from them how they see the IDF in the coming years and the role of chief of staff.”

Appointing the military’s top officer is part of the role of the defense minister, with approval from the government. In recent years there have been recurring tensions surrounding the process.

(Left to right) Major Generals Eyal Zamir, Herzi Halevi, and Yoel Strick are seen in official, undated photographs. (Israel Defense Forces)

In 2018 then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman and then-prime minister Netanyahu clashed over the process after Liberman unilaterally announced the appointment of Aviv Kohavi while Netanyahu was overseas. Netanyahu is said to have wanted Zamir in the role.

Netanyahu also blurred protocol when he interviewed candidates for chief of staff while Moshe Ya’alon served as defense minister in 2014.

Kohavi is set to finish his term as the army’s chief next January.

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