IDF chief of staff ends speculation, confirms he will not serve a fifth year
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IDF chief of staff ends speculation, confirms he will not serve a fifth year

On backdrop of tensions in south, north, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot says IDF is ‘prepared for any mission’

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 26, 2016.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 26, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot on Thursday confirmed he will step down from the role in six months, putting an end to speculation that his term could be extended for a second time.

Speaking at an event honoring the work of an organization aiding retired soldiers, Eisenkot also said that amid tensions in both the north and south of the country, the army was “prepared for any mission.”

The role of IDF chief of staff is a three-year position, though it can be extended by one or, on rare occasions, two years.

Eisenkot entered the position in February 2015, taking over from Benny Gantz. In January 2017 his term was extended by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman until 2019 and later confirmed by the cabinet.

Prime Minister Benjamin (c), Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, (r) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, attend a security cabinet meeting at the Kirya, the IDF Headquarters, in Tel Aviv, on February 10, 2018. (Ariel Hermony/Ministry of Defense)

Eisenkot has introduced a number of streamlining efforts in the IDF, as part of the military’s multi-year Gideon Plan. While he has been praised for some of his changes to the IDF — notably for his plan to give every soldier a free education — he has also drawn his share of criticism and denunciation, mostly from Israel’s right.

Following the contentious Elor Azaria verdict, supporters of the soldier verbally attacked Eisenkot, shouting slogans such as “Gadi watch out, Rabin is looking for a friend,” referring to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995.

Eisenkot later reduced Azaria’s sentence by four months after the soldier convicted of killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant filed a request for leniency. Eisenkot wrote that he decided to reduce Azaria’s sentence despite his displeasure with the fact that the soldier never took responsibility for his crime or showed remorse for it.

After a November 2015 stabbing attack in Jerusalem, in which two teenage girls were shot repeatedly by an off-duty police officer, Eisenkot told students he didn’t “want to see a soldier open fire and empty his magazine at a girl like that, even if she is committing a very serious act.”

The comment drew criticism from members of the Israeli public, but also from politicians, with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely accusing him of damaging Israel’s image.

Eisenkot also drew criticism in December when he met with former prime minister Ehud Barak, a vehement critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Recent military successes, notably against Iranian troops and Iran-backed militia in Syria, have drawn praise from Netanyahu.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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