Cabinet confirms Aviv Kochavi as Israel army’s 22nd chief of staff

Lt. Gen. Eisenkot’s tenure extended by two weeks, to January 15, to give more time for his successor to prepare

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Then-head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi attends a Knesset committee meeting on February 25, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Then-head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi attends a Knesset committee meeting on February 25, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The cabinet officially voted to confirm Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi for the position of Israel Defense Forces chief of staff on Sunday. He is scheduled to take over the position on January 15.

Kochavi, the former head of Military Intelligence and the Northern Command, and the current deputy chief of staff, will be the 22nd commander of the IDF.

Current IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot was initially due to retire on January 1; however, to allow additional time for Kochavi to prepare for the role, Eisenkot’s tenure was extended by two weeks.

Prior to the cabinet’s vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Kochavi was an “outstanding officer,” who was “full as a pomegranate with innovative plans.”

Netayahu also thanked the outgoing Eisenkot, saying he provided “dedicated and important service during a complicated period.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also praised Kochavi, calling him a “fearless warrior, a moral commander, experienced and the most suitable person for the position of chief of staff during this sensitive period.”

The cabinet’s approval came hours after reports emerged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had opposed Kochavi’s appointment, instead preferring his former military secretary Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir  for the role.

According to Army Radio, last month Netanyahu shouted at then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman who was said to have taken advantage of the fact that the prime minister was out of the country on a then-unreported visit to Muscat in order to appoint Kochavi over Zamir.

Last Thursday, Netanyahu announced that he had chosen Zamir for the position of IDF deputy chief of staff.

Liberman resigned last week, citing differences of opinion over Israel’s policies toward the Gaza Strip and the Hamas terror group. With Liberman’s exit, Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister and health minister, took over as defense minister as well.

Kochavi’s candidacy was approved last ween by the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, a vetting panel led by former judge and state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg.

“The panel found no deficiency in the integrity of Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi,” the committee said in a statement.

The panel said it had reviewed the general’s curriculum vitae and spoken with Kochavi, as well as with a number of people who could “assist the committee in reaching an opinion about the candidate.”

Liberman praised the Goldberg committee’s decision to approve Kochavi’s candidacy, saying the general “has operational and rich command experience, integrity, values and morals.” Kochavi’s nomination was one of Liberman’s clearest achievements during his tenure as defense minister.

From a pool of four candidates, Kochavi, 54, was seen as the front-runner for the position, having served as the head of the IDF Northern Command and head of Military Intelligence, following years as a field commander in the Paratroopers Brigade.

A husband and father of three daughters, Kochavi holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the Hebrew University, a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University, and a second master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.

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