Liberman says selection of next IDF chief to begin next week

Six-stage process to conclude at end of 2018 with appointment of successor to Eisenkot; Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi seen as leading candidate

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) meets with IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) on May 31, 2016 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) meets with IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) on May 31, 2016 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Thursday that he will begin next week the process of selecting a new IDF chief of staff to succeed Gadi Eisenkot, who ends his term as commander of the military on December 31.

“I will in the coming days start a round of discussions and meetings with different candidates, to select the best chief of staff for the IDF,” Liberman said in a statement, adding that there are “excellent candidates” and the process will be “organized, level-headed and responsible.”

The selection process — developed at the recommendation of the military advocate general — consists of six stages, with the leading candidate seen as the current deputy chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

Kochavi, 54, who until recently was the commander of the Northern Command, previously served as head of Military Intelligence and as commander of the Gaza Division during the 2005 disengagement from the Strip.

Another officer named as a potential candidate for the job is former deputy chief of staff Yair Golan, who in 2016 drew outrage for a Holocaust Day speech that compared modern-day Israel to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, in identifying what he said were “horrific processes” in dealing with Palestinians.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center, meets with senior IDF officials, including the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, right, and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who stands behind him, during a tour of northern Israel on November 15, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Other potential contenders are Eyal Zamir, until recently commander of the Southern Command, and Nitzan Alon, who formerly served as commander of the Central Command and is currently a project manager on Iran.

Liberman will first discuss potential nominees with former prime ministers, defense ministers, chiefs of staff, and senior commanders. He will then discuss the matter with Eisenkot himself, who has held the position since February 2015.

Liberman will then hold personal interviews with the candidates. Their names will be sent to a committee to ensure that they fill all the requirements and are competent to serve in the job.

After the committee’s approval, Liberman will make his decision and discuss it with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Eventually, the selected candidate will have to be approved by the cabinet.

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