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Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to take over as IDF deputy chief

Military reveals series of appointments to take effect in 2017, including new heads of air force, Northern Command

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Then-head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi attends a Knesset committee meeting on February 25, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Then-head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi attends a Knesset committee meeting on February 25, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The head of the IDF’s Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, has been approved to take over as deputy chief of staff for Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, who has held the position for the past two years, the army announced Thursday.

The appointment is the most high-profile of a number of changes to the Israel Defense Forces’ General Staff, the major generals and brigadier generals who run the army.

Kochavi, 52, served as the head of Military Intelligence during the 2014 Gaza war, and in a number of other high-profile positions, including commander of the Paratroopers Brigade. He has long been considered a rising star in the IDF, though his efforts during the Gaza operation will reportedly be criticized in a state comptroller report due to be released in the coming weeks.

The appointment will put him one step closer to eventually becoming the head of the IDF, once Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot’s term is up in 2018, 2019 or 2020, depending on whether the government decides to extend his three-year term.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved Kochavi, who had been nominated by Eisenkot for the position, the army said.

Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, the former head of the Southern Command, and Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who heads IDF operations, were also considered for the position. After the announcement, Turgeman, who has been working in academia since leaving the army, said he would not return to the IDF.

In addition to Kochavi, new commanders of the Israeli Air Force, the Northern Command, the Home Front Command, the Depths Corps and the Planning Directorate were named.

However, while the changes were announced Thursday, they will not go into effect until sometime next year, the army said.

“All the candidates who were considered were the best people,” Liberman said in a statement.

“They are experienced and capable of filling these positions in the best way possible. The IDF and the State of Israel can be proud that these are the people commanding the IDF’s soldiers,” he said.

Taking over for Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, who has served as head of the air force for some four and a half years, is Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin, who has served as commander of the Planning Directorate for the past year.

Head of the IDF's Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick walks during a memorial ceremony for Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on August 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Head of the IDF’s Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick walks during a memorial ceremony for Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on August 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, the current head of the Home Front Command, will take over for Kochavi in the Northern Command.

Strick cut his teeth in the Givati Brigade, a unit known for its proficiency in desert warfare, making him a somewhat unexpected choice to lead the Northern Command. However, Strick has previously commanded forces on Israel’s northern border, leading the Galilee Division from 2009 to 2011.

Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai, commander of the IDF’s West Bank Division, will replace Strick as head of the Home Front Command and will be promoted in rank to major general.

The IDF’s somewhat mysterious Depths Corps, which operates beyond Israel’s borders, will be led by Brig. Gen. Muni Katz, the current head of the Ground Forces Training Center. He too will be promoted in rank to major general.

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