Military chief Aviv Kohavi on Thursday named Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman the next spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, after the previous candidate for the position refused the nomination amid controversy over his previously unknown role assisting police in a corruption investigation in 2015.
“The nomination was approved by prime and defense minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the army said.
In a few months, Zilberman will succeed Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, who has served as IDF spokesman for the past two years, the army said.
Zilberman currently serves as the head of the planning division of the IDF Planning Directorate.
His nomination came a month and a half after Kohavi tapped Gil Messing to take over the position from Manelis.
Two weeks after he was nominated, Messing announced he was rescinding his candidacy, after it came to light that he had acted as a police agent in the Yisrael Beytenu corruption investigation in 2015.
Beyond his youth and relative lack of military experience, Messing, who is close to Kohavi, was already a controversial choice for the position, as he has an indisputably political background, having worked as a spokesman for former foreign minister Tzipi Livni for several years. In general, the military looks to avoid even the appearance of partisanship.
Zilberman, a career military officer, is a far more conventional choice for the position.
Messing was not a suspect in the Yisrael Beytenu corruption probe, nor was he accused of any wrongdoing. He said he worked on behalf of the police out of a sense of civic duty. The State’s Attorney’s Office said his assistance in the case “deserves appreciation.”
Yet, when the Haaretz newspaper broke the news of his previously unknown role in the graft probe, his already controversial appointment for the sensitive, high-profile position was quickly called into question.
On May 12, Messing sent a letter to Kohavi saying he no longer wanted to be considered for the position of spokesperson so that his personal history is “not used as a battering ram against the chief of staff or the IDF.”