Major-General Amir Eshel - Nir Kafri
Major-General Amir Eshel. Photo by Nir Kafri
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The appointment of Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel as the next Israel Air Force commander is a victory for both common sense and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. Logic dictated that an experienced and talented officer like Eshel, who is currently head of the Plans and Policy Directorate and has gone through every filter and preparation the air force has to offer, would win the confidence of the higher echelons and be given command of the military's most important arm.

There was no place for the efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to skew the competition for the benefit of his military secretary, Maj. Gen. Yohanan Locker. Nor for the public call of Defense Minister Ehud Barak to equate the appointment of the air force commander with that of the deputy chief of staff or Military Intelligence chief - two instances when the defense minister's position outweighs that of the chief of staff.

From the start, Eshel's appointment was self-evident, but there is something beneficial in the winding path the process took until its final resolution, only three months before the expected retirement of Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan.

Like Gantz - whom neither Netanyahu nor Barak wanted as chief of staff but were forced to accept after their candidate, Yoav Galant, was invalidated - Eshel does not owe his appointment to these two senior cabinet members, who seem to be trigger happy on Iran.

Not that anyone would suspect that an officer of his stature, whose assertiveness and integrity are known to all, would adapt his own views to those of his superiors. Nevertheless, it's good that Gantz's decision was ratified despite Eshel's stance on this crucial issue and not because of it.

In the General Staff under former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi, Eshel was regarded as one of its most sober, levelheaded members. It was the same during Gantz's first year as well, and it will need to be as Eshel assumes the triple task of builder of the IAF's air power; commander of aerial strategy (with structural friction sure to emerge with the commander of the new longe-range Depth Command, whose creation the IAF opposed ); and chief adviser on aerial matters to the General Staff and government.

Of all the defense organizations, the air force stands out for the way it grooms commanders and skilled fighters. Their main fault is that they tend to remain small-minded and limit themselves to implementing the policy imposed on them from above.

Until now, Amir Eshel has exhibited a can-do attitude. One hopes he will stay that way, together with the chief of staff and the heads of the intelligence community - particularly at a time when the government is headed by a pair who seem imbued with fighting spirit.

Read this article in Hebrew