Netanyahu interviews two candidates for IDF deputy chief of staff
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Netanyahu interviews two candidates for IDF deputy chief of staff

Generals Eyal Zamir and Nitzan Alon considered to replace Aviv Kochavi, who is slated to take over as IDF chief next year

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

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, visits the Gaza Division with Col. Yaakov 'Yaki' Dolef and head of the Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir in southern Israel on August 30, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, visits the Gaza Division with Col. Yaakov 'Yaki' Dolef and head of the Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir in southern Israel on August 30, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday interviewed two candidates for the position of IDF deputy chief of staff to replace Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who is set to take over as head of the army next year.

The prime minister, who also currently serves as defense minister, met with Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, his former military secretary and the former head of the IDF Southern Command, and Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the former head of IDF Operations and current officer in charge of the military’s efforts against Iran.

According to Netanyahu’s office, he will announce his choice for the position “in the coming days.”

Both Zamir and Alon were also candidates for the position of chief of staff, but were passed over in favor of Kochavi, who was nominated by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman earlier this month.

Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, head of the IDF Central Command, in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2013 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Netanyahu had reportedly favored Zamir to succeed Eisenkot.

Kochavi also met with the two officers earlier this week, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Netanyahu took over as defense minister last week after Liberman stepped down from the position, in large part over disagreements with the government’s policies toward the Gaza Strip and Hamas.

Netanyahu also holds the position of foreign minister, health minister and immigrant absorption minister.

On Tuesday, a vetting committee approved Kochavi’s candidacy for the position of IDF chief of staff, paving the way for him to step into the role at the beginning of next year.

A final vote to approve Kochavi to take over as the 22nd commander of the Israel Defense Forces is scheduled to be brought before the cabinet on Sunday, November 25, according to Netanyahu’s office.

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)

On Tuesday evening, the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, led by former judge and state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, announced it had approved Kochavi’s appointment to take over for outgoing army commander Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who is due to end his tenure on December 31.

“The panel found no deficiency in the integrity of Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi,” the committee said in a statement.

The panel said it had reviewed the general’s curriculum vitae and spoken with Kochavi, as well as with a number of people who could “assist the committee in reaching an opinion about the candidate.”

Kochavi is expected to be confirmed in the cabinet vote.

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