The army’s new top commander has made his first mark on the IDF General Staff, appointing a new Southern Command chief and a new head of the IDF Planning Directorate, crucial posts that include, respectively, the Gaza and Sinai areas and the strategic future moves of the army.
Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisnekot, who was sworn in as the commander of the IDF General Staff on Monday, opted to extend the service of the current commanders of the Israeli Air Force and Navy by an additional year.
Eisenkot’s appointments are very much in line with those of his predecessor. In the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir of the armored corps will replace another armored corps general, and in the planning division, for the fourth consecutive term, an Israel Air Force pilot, Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, will replace a pilot.
Zamir, originally from Eilat, was drafted in 1984 and came up through the armored corps ranks almost exclusively, filling each role in the chain of command from tank commander to head of the 143rd Armored Division, the force that Ariel Sharon headed during the Yom Kippur War.
The move indicates that, although the age of large-scale armored warfare has largely come to a close in the region, the tank, which proved effective during the war in Gaza last summer, is still seen as a crucial element of the IDF’s ground warfare doctrine, although the numbers of tanks have been, and will likely continue to be, reduced.
The new appointment at the IDF Planning Directorate – a branch tasked with analyzing future threats and developing the IDF, in terms of weapon purchases and operational structure, in accordance – reveals an ongoing reliance on IAF officers.
Norkin, formerly the IAF chief of staff, the second in command to IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, will be promoted to the two-star general rank of Maj. Gen. and will replace Maj. Gen. Nimrod Sheffer at the head of the IDF Planning Directorate.
The position, like the head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, is reserved for the army’s top strategic thinkers. The IDF’s past two air force commanders, Eshel and Ido Nechoshtan, first headed the planning directorate.
Norkin will likely play a central role in decided how many F-35 fighter planes to finally purchase from the United States, and whether the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft that flies like a plane and takes off and lands like a helicopter, is, ultimately, necessary for long-range special operations missions.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who approved the nominations, reportedly ruled against the V-22 in October.
Eisenkot, who said Monday that “the Middle East is changing its face beyond recognition and is characterized by volatility and insecurity,” also appointed Maj. Gen. Tamir Heyman, a former armored corps officer, to commander of the IDF Military Colleges, where he will replace Maj. Gen. Yossi Baidatz.