Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter, the military secretary of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, took three of his children on a military helicopter when he traveled a few days ago with Bennett to a pilots’ graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim airbase.
IDF and Defense Ministry regulations forbid officers to take family members with them on such flights except in exceptional circumstances. The IDF says the children joined the flight since there were vacant spots on the flights to and from the ceremony.
Sources in the defense establishment told Haaretz that Winter used his personal ties with Bennett to take the children along, and that the decision showed bad judgment on the part of the military secretary. These sources said Winter would not have received approval for this without Bennett’s intervention. The two have been friends since their military service.
Defense Ministry regulations state that “the relevant considerations for approving flying in air force planes for non-military purposes are based on security, diplomatic and strategic factors.” The provision of flight services by the air force allows adding defense ministry officials and high-ranking guests to flights, in cases “where there is no other way of carrying out this mission.” The minister is not obliged to tell the IDF in advance who will accompany him on flights, but the number of passengers is determined by the air force. When officers wish to take family members on military flights, they are required to obtain the consent of the army chief of staff or the air force commander.
Winter has been Bennett’s secretary since last October, and is expected to be appointed the commander of Division 98. In the past, he commanded the Givati Brigade, including during Operation Protective Edge.
The previous chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, blocked Winter’s appointment as division commander due to his performance during that operation, particularly in the battle in Rafah that was later called Black Friday, and due to Eisenkot’s reservations regarding Winter’s conduct in which he used outside elements in trying to secure his promotion.