US awards Legion of Merit to visiting IDF chief Kohavi

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff gives Aviv Kohavi award during honor guard ceremony in Washington

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

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, left, awards the Legion of Merit to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, left, awards the Legion of Merit to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley awarded Israeli military chief Aviv Kohavi with the Legion of Merit on Monday for “deepening the strategic partnership between Israel and the US,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

Milley presented IDF Chief of Staff Kohavi with the Legion of Merit, commander degree, following an honor guard ceremony outside the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

Many of Kohavi’s predecessors have also received the award.

“Kohavi exemplified the spirit of collaboration and cooperation in furthering the strategic partnership of the United States and the State of Israel,” the text of the award read.

“Kohavi solidified Israel’s status as a capable and effective regional security leader in the Middle East. Kohavi clearly established and shared Israel’s strategic defense objectives, in close alignment with US national interests and strategic objectives. Kohavi’s superior efforts, outstanding leadership, and personal initiative reflect great credit upon himself, the Israel Defense Forces, and his country,” it said.

The Legion of Merit can be awarded by the US Armed Forces to foreign military and political officials who “distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services,” according to US law. It is the sixth-highest honor that the United States can bestow on a US citizen.

The Legion of Merit has four degrees, depending on the rank of the recipient. The commander degree, which Kohavi received, is the second-highest level of the award, following chief commander.

Former IDF chiefs of staff Gadi Eizenkot, Benny Gantz, and Gabi Ashkenazi also received the Legion of Merit during their tenures as heads of the Israeli military.

The Legion of Merit  awarded to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kohavi landed in the US on Sunday morning for a five-day trip, during which he is to meet with American defense officials for discussions focused on the Iranian threat, the IDF said.

The official visit marked Kohavi’s final one as chief of staff, as his tenure is set to end on January 17.

Aside from Milley, Kohavi was slated to meet with US National Security adviser Jake Sullivan, CIA Director William Burns, and US Central Command chief Michael Erik Kurilla, among other senior defense officials.

He also met with the Israel Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog.

“During the visit, they will discuss issues related to the security challenges in the region, primarily the Iranian threat, and issues related to strengthening cooperation between the armies,” the IDF said in a statement.

Kohavi was joined by his wife, Yael Kohavi, as well as Hidai Zilberman, defense attaché to Washington; Effie Defrin, the military’s international cooperation commander; a senior unnamed intelligence officer, and an officer from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

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