Cabinet confirms Herzi Halevi as Israeli army’s 23rd chief of staff

Current IDF deputy head to take up post on January 17, when outgoing top soldier Aviv Kohavi’s tenure ends

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Incoming IDF chief of staff Maj. Gen Herzi Halevi (left) is seen with Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in an image published October 23, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Incoming IDF chief of staff Maj. Gen Herzi Halevi (left) is seen with Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in an image published October 23, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The cabinet officially voted to confirm Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi as the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff on Sunday, clearing the final hurdle for him to step into the role early next year.

Halevi, the former head of Military Intelligence and the Southern Command, and the current deputy chief of staff, will become the 23rd IDF commander on January 17.

“The critical component of Israeli strength is the quality of the IDF’s fighters and commanders. Maj. Gen. Halevi today joins a long and select chain of thoughtful and daring commanders who knew how to march the IDF forward,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in opening remarks at Sunday’s government meeting.

The decision to approve Halevi as the next chief of staff was made despite the fact that the government gave its final approval just 10 days before the November 1 general election.

Halevi will replace outgoing army commander Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi. It was unclear who will take over for Halevi in the role of IDF deputy chief of staff, as no replacement has yet been named.

Kohavi in a statement said he welcomes the appointment. “Herzi and I have known each other for many years, during which I got to know a brave, professional and talented officer. Herzi is an excellent and experienced officer and I am sure that he will continue to lead the IDF forward, given the expected challenges. I wish him great success,” Kohavi said.

Incoming IDF chief of staff Maj. Gen Herzi Halevi (left) is seen with outgoing IDF chief Aviv Kohavi (right), in an undated photo published October 23, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a first meeting with Halevi following the cabinet vote to discuss “various issues” that will be relevant for when he enters the role, his office said.

“Herzi is an excellent, experienced officer with leadership skills and a breadth of vision that will help him advance the IDF and Israel’s security, [amid] the challenges we are facing in each of the theaters,” Gantz said in a statement.

“I trust him and wish him great success,” he added.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz holds a meeting with incoming IDF chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, October 23, 2022. (Nicole Laskavi/Defense Ministry)

President Isaac Herzog wished Halevi success, saying in a Twitter post the incoming chief of staff is an “excellent and highly accomplished officer and commander whom I have known and cherished for many years.”

“Herzi, your success is the success of the State of Israel!” Herzog added.

Halevi’s candidacy was approved last week by the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, a vetting panel led by former attorney general and Supreme Court justice Elyakim Rubenstein.

Herzi Halevi, deputy Chief of Staff in Tel Aviv, July 11, 2021. (Flash90, file)

Gantz nominated Halevi for the position last month, in a move considered unorthodox ahead of Israel’s November election, as caretaker governments have traditionally shied away from filling senior positions. Opposition lawmakers petitioned to block the caretaker government from making any senior appointments until a new government can be formed.

But Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said in August that she found the contents of a classified dossier along with a legal opinion provided by the Defense Ministry to be sufficient to allow the process to move forward.

In a pool of three candidates, Halevi, 54, was seen as the frontrunner for the position, having served as the head of the IDF Southern Command and head of Military Intelligence, following years as a field commander in the Paratroopers Brigade and elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit.

A husband and father of four, Halevi holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and business administration from the Hebrew University, and a master’s degree in national resource management from the National Defense University in the United States.

He lives in the settlement of Kfar HaOranim, which straddles the West Bank border close to the city of Modiin.

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