In expedited process, Gantz to meet with candidates for IDF chief in coming days

Defense minister will sit down with generals Zamir, Halevi and Strick, as well as former senior officials, to choose Aviv Kohavi’s successor before anticipated government collapse

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

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

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is slated to meet with three senior Israeli generals in the coming days, in an apparently accelerated process of nominating the next commander of the Israel Defense Forces.

The candidates for the next IDF chief named by Gantz on Monday 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.

According to a schedule released by his office, Gantz will meet with Zamir on Saturday night, Strick on Tuesday and Halevi on Wednesday, to “verify their readiness to run for the role, and to hear from them about how they see the IDF in the coming years and the role of chief of staff.”

Gantz’s office initially said he would meet with the candidates “in the coming weeks.”

Gantz will also meet with former senior defense officials “for further consultations,” his office said, “and if necessary will hold additional meetings with the candidates.”

The four-year 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 a year, or on one rare occasion, two years. Most army chiefs serve for four.

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

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

The reason for the earlier-than-usual process is thought to be related to Israel’s unstable government, which on Monday lost another coalition member. Gantz is expected to nominate a successor to Kohavi in the coming weeks, ensuring that if the government collapses, he would have already secured the next military chief.

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.

Halevi is thought to be the frontrunner, with Zamir a rumored dark horse candidate. 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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