Reversing the position of his predecessor Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Monday appointed Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter, known for being a Pattonesque holy warrior on the battlefield, as commander of the prestigious 98th “Fire” Division, which includes the Commando Brigade and the Paratroopers Brigade.
Winter was a battalion commander in the Givati Brigade during the fighting in the Gaza Strip in the second intifada, commander of the Duvdevan undercover counter-terrorism unit, and afterwards the Givati commander during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
>> Read more: Why they rejected the victorious General Winter | Opinion
During the operation he was the subject of criticism due to a letter he sent to the unit commanders, in which he wrote that they were fighting “a blasphemous enemy that defiles the God of Israel.” The brigade was also criticized for its conduct on “Black Friday” in Rafah, when dozens of innocent people were among the casualties.
In a round of appointments in June of last year, Eisenkot decided not to promote Winter, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request that he be appointed his military secretary. Eisenkot is believed to have held Winter back for two reasons: Winter’s conduct during the “Black Friday” battle in Rafah in 2014, after the abduction of the body of Lt. Hadar Goldin, and his emerging tendency to rally political forces outside the military, journalists and sometimes even with political activists to advance his promotion.
Kochavi also appointed Col. Yaakov Dolf as head of the ground forces Manpower Directorate. Dolf, commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, received a command reprimand for his part in the Hilazon Stream accident in February, in which Sgt. Evyatar Yosefi was killed.
The committee that examined the incident in the Hilazon Stream ruled that as brigade commander, Dolf bore responsibility for the accident. The Military Police Detective Unit investigation has yet to be concluded, and the prosecution’s decision regarding the responsibility of the senior officers for the disaster is expected to be released soon.
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Sources who were involved in researching the accident and the ensuing investigation say former senior defense officials, including retired generals, recently pressured Kochavi and others to allow Dolf’s promotion and to refrain from further legal action against him.