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Gantz launches process to choose new IDF chief, naming three generals

Eyal Zamir, Herzi Halevi and Yoel Strick selected as candidates, with defense minister thought to want to choose Aviv Kohavi’s successor before anticipated government collapse

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

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

Launching the process earlier than expected, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday notified three senior Israeli generals that they are candidates to be the next commander of the Israel Defense Forces.

The tenure of the current IDF chief of general staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, is expected to end in January 2023. The position is a three-year post, though it can be extended by one, or in one rare occasion, two years. Most army chiefs serve for four.

Kohavi was named IDF chief in October 2018, three months before he entered the post. Before him, Gadi Eizenkot was named as the next chief in November 2015, also three months before entering the role.

The generals named were 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 think tank in Washington.

Gantz’s office said he would speak to the three major generals in the coming weeks in order to “verify their readiness to run for role, and to hear from them about how they see the IDF in the coming years and the role of chief of staff.”

The reason for the earlier-than-usual announcement was thought to be related to Israel’s seemingly unstable government, which on Monday lost another coalition member. According to the Kan public broadcaster, Gantz is expected to nominate a successor to Kohavi within three weeks, ensuring that if the government collapses, he would have already secured the next military chief.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (L) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (R). (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Minister)

According to Gantz’s office, the defense minister notified Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the move, and held a meeting with Kohavi “for the purpose of coordinating the process.”

By law, candidates for chief of staff, as well as other senior positions such as police commissioner and Bank of Israel governor, must be vetted by the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee. After that, a nominee is confirmed in a cabinet vote.

With Zamir a rumored dark horse candidate, Halevi is thought to be the frontrunner. Halevi and Kohavi started off their military careers in the same paratrooper unit, and later both served as chiefs of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate.

Before serving as deputy chief of staff, Halevi, 54, was the commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, overseeing several rounds of fighting between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip in 2018 and 2019.

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