Panel tasked with finding new head for Army Radio despite looming end of station

Defense minister announces board, composed of military officials and lawyers, who will submit recommendation within 2 months

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

A soldier-reporter for Israel's Army Radio, on November 11, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
A soldier-reporter for Israel's Army Radio, on November 11, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced Monday the appointment of an advisory panel on locating a new commander for Army Radio, despite plans to shutter or privatize the station.

The panel will be headed by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amir Abulafia, the former commander of the military’s Planning Directorate, Gantz’s office said. Other members include former military advocate general Maj. Gen. (Res.) Ilan Schiff, head of the military’s Manpower Directorate Maj. Gen. Yaniv Asor, and Zohar Kadmon, a lawyer.

The team will submit its recommendations for a new head of the station to Gantz within 60 days.

Gantz picked journalist Galit Altstein to take over as interim commander of the station last August. Altstein, who worked in the past at the station, was the chief news editor at the financial newspaper Calcalist.

For several years, the Israel Defense Forces has sought to remove Army Radio from the purview of the military and the Defense Ministry. In January 2021, Gantz announced a plan to separate Army Radio from the IDF, a move that had long been expected but had been repeatedly delayed so as to avoid shuttering the station for good.

The Attorney General’s Office said earlier this year that Gantz and IDF chief Aviv Kohavi lacked the authority to shutter Army Radio on their own, and instead a Knesset bill would be the best method for approving such a move.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during an event held by his Blue and White party in Tel Aviv, on March 21, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The military’s operating and funding of a radio station with journalists responsible for investigating the IDF itself, as well as politicians, has long been considered anachronistic, expensive and an ethical minefield.

The station’s position as a media outlet has thus always been an uneasy one, functioning simultaneously, and sometimes discordantly, as an independent news organization that seeks to critique the government and as an arm of the Israeli military dedicated to covering the troops and furthering the narrative of the military as an area of national consensus.

Army Radio — one of the most listened-to news stations in the country — is staffed by a mix of young soldiers and seasoned journalists.

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