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Liberman submits his pick for IDF chief to vetting panel for approval

Defense minister writes that Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi has proven his ability to command in times of emergency, is respected within army; cabinet must also confirm nomination

Deputy IDF chief of staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi salutes during a ceremony at Hakirya base in Tel Aviv, November 3, 2016. (Flash90)
Deputy IDF chief of staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi salutes during a ceremony at Hakirya base in Tel Aviv, November 3, 2016. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday formally submitted his pick for the next chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces to an official vetting committee whose approval is needed before the nomination can be finalized by the government.

In a letter to the chair of the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, former judge and state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, Liberman wrote that current Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi was the most suitable candidate to take over as the military’s commanding officer.

“The unique combination of his job, his proven ability to command in routine times and in times of emergency, his rich and impressive experience in operational command, the esteem he enjoys within the IDF and outside of it — all  of these qualified him for the job of the 22nd chief of staff of the IDF.”

“In his various capacities, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi demonstrated leadership, daring, creativity, impressive command capabilities and a comprehensive and multi-dimensional vision,” Liberman continued. “He has integrity, values, and morality.”

Liberman noted in the letter that before making his selection he had consulted over the past few months with former prime ministers, defense ministers, previous IDF chiefs of staff and former senior officers, as well as with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the current IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, left, speaks to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi in a field just outside the Gaza Strip on February 20, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

The defense minister announced the nomination on Friday and Netanyahu welcomed the choice.

Once he receives the consent of the vetting committee — as he is expected to — Liberman will bring Kochavi’s candidacy for confirmation to the government, after which the officer can take over the post from Eisenkot, who has been in the position since 2015.

Eisenkot’s four-year term as chief of staff is due to end on December 31, 2018.

Kochavi, 54, was seen as the front-runner for the position, having served as the head of the IDF Northern Command and head of Military Intelligence, following years as a field commander in the Paratroopers Brigade.

A husband and father of three daughters, Kochavi holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the Hebrew University, a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University and a second master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.

Netanyahu had reportedly favored former IDF Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir to succeed Eisenkot. Liberman disagreed, and was earlier said to have wanted former deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon for the post.

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