Former deputy IDF chief Eyal Zamir picked as Defense Ministry director

Retired major general, twice considered to lead military, to enter role in coming weeks; Gallant hails ‘outstanding commander’ who once served as Netanyahu’s military secretary

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

Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, then-outgoing IDF deputy chief of staff during a ceremony July 11, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, then-outgoing IDF deputy chief of staff during a ceremony July 11, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

New Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday appointed Eyal Zamir, a former deputy chief of the military, to become the next director-general of the ministry.

Zamir, 57, will enter the role in the coming weeks, replacing the current director-general, Amir Eshel, who said he would quit once former defense minister Benny Gantz is replaced.

The retired major general was considered twice to lead the Israel Defense Forces, in 2018 and 2022. Ultimately, however, the front-running candidates were selected instead.

Zamir most recently served as IDF deputy chief of staff. In 2018, he was the commander of the Southern Command, overseeing violent clashes along the Gaza border, during protests organized by the Hamas terror group.

Between 2012 and 2015, Zamir was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s military secretary.

“Zamir is one of the best commanders to emerge in the IDF in the last generation. His track record of service is impressive and he excelled in all his positions,” Gallant, also a former general, said in remarks published by his office.

“I have known Eyal for many years, I have known an outstanding commander and a high-quality manager, brave, cool-headed, professional, and good-natured. I am convinced that his familiarity with the defense establishment at all levels will allow him to integrate quickly into the position,” Gallant added.

Zamir thanked Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, for tapping him for the role, saying: “We will work in cooperation to strengthen the power of the IDF, the defense organizations, industry, and Israeli society.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen with outgoing military secretary to the prime minister, Major General Eyal Zamir, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on September 8, 2015. (Haim Zach / GPO)

A husband and father of three, Zamir graduated from the IDF Command and Staff College and holds a master’s degree in political sciences from Haifa University.

He lives in the central city of Hod Hasharon.

Zamir, born in the southern city of Eilat, started his service in the Armored Corps.

After completing tank officer’s training course, Zamir rose through the ranks and went on to command the 7th Armored Brigade in 2003, and the 36th Armored Division in 2009.

Before serving as Netanyahu’s military secretary, Zamir served as commander of the Israeli Ground Forces. After that, he was appointed as commander of the IDF Southern Command in 2015.

Between 2018 and 2021, he served as deputy chief of staff, his last role in the army before heading to the United States to become a visiting research fellow at the Washington Institute think tank.

In a lengthy report before the end of his position as a research fellow, Zamir warned that Iran had managed to establish a significant foothold in Syria, and openly called for more assassinations of Iranian military officials to curb such efforts.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) walks with IDF Chief Aviv Kohavi (right) and the director-general of the Defense Ministry (left), at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, January 1, 2023 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Gallant, a former top general who began his military career in the elite Shayetet 13 naval commando unit, is a highly regarded military strategist.

Though also once in the running to be IDF chief of staff, he had to pull out, after becoming embroiled in a scandal regarding the encroachment of his house and garden onto public lands.

After he was disqualified, the position went to Gantz, the former defense minister.

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