Defense Chief Ya’alon to Nominate New IDF Chief of Staff Within Two Weeks

Most former officials whom the minister consulted support Eizenkot, currently the IDF’s No. 2.

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Israel's top defense trio, from left: Ehud Barak, Gadi Eizenkot and Benny Gantz
(L-R): Former Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak; the current IDF No. 2, Gadi Eizenkot; and the current IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz.Credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon plans to bring his choice for the next chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces to the government for approval at its November 16 meeting.

Most of the people whom the minister has consulted - former defense ministers as well as former chiefs of staffs and deputy chiefs - support Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot as the IDF’s next leader. And observers say that Ya’alon himself backs Eisenkot, who is currently deputy chief of staff, for the post.

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the current chief of staff, completes his tenure on February 15.

Ya’alon held a first round of consultations on Friday, meeting with former IDF chiefs Gabi Ashkenazi and Dan Halutz and with former Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

And he spoke by phone with Ehud Barak, a former IDF chief, defense minister and prime minister, who is currently abroad.

Ya’alon is still expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; MK Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and chief of staff; MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister; and two deputy chiefs of staff, Gens. (res.) Moshe Kaplinsky and Dan Harel, who currently serves as director general of the Defense Ministry.

Eisenkot enjoys broad support among these advisers, although most of them will also speak positively of another candidate, former Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh.

After completing these consultations, Ya’alon will interview Eisenkot and Naveh. And he may interview a third candidate, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, who recently completed his tenure as chief of the Northern Command.

Golan, who is younger than Eisenkot and Naveh, at this point is considered to have less of a chance at the top spot. But his chances appear good to be named deputy chief of staff in this round, which would position him as a candidate for the top post in 2019.

Defense Ministry officials on Sunday received a written opinion from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein regarding the two main candidates for chief of staff, saying he can defend the nomination of either Eisenkot or Naveh to the High Court of Justice. He also believes that the nomination of either one would be approved by the Turkel committee on senior appointments.

The question whether Eisenkot was fit to lead the army arose due to his involvement in the so-called Harpaz affair. Two of his close friends, current Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and Col. (ret.) Gabi Siboni, took part in the circulating of a document, which later turned out to be fake, as part of efforts to keep Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yoav Galant from being named chief of staff. Eisenkot was questioned by police on two separate occasions, and was later criticized over the fact that he failed to disclose information during the first questioning.

In a recent interview with Ha’aretz, Ya’alon pledged that the selection process of the chief of staff would be “completely transparent with the required consultations and checks.” He said that “we will present the best choice to the cabinet in November.”

Ya’alon also said last month that Gantz’s successor would come from within the army.

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