Israeli Army Chief Kills Speculation Over Term Extension: 'I Will Retire in Six Months'

Eisenkot's announcement comes amid talk that his term would be extended, which, as Haaretz reported last week, Netanyahu may try to do so

Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, June 4, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Thursday that he will step down in half a year from now. At a ceremony hosted by the IDF Veterans Association, Eisenkot said “In six months from now I will complete my service and join you.” The ceremony was held in honor of the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces. The chief of staff thereby ended the speculation that his term would be extended.

>> How Israel's army chief went from 'weak on terror' to the most popular kid in town | Analysis ■ 

Eisenkot is greatly admired by the government, and last week Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would try to find a way to extend his tenure by several months, until the summer of 2019. Up until about two years ago leading members of the cabinet had accused Eisenkot of weakness in the face of Palestinian terror, and criticized his handling of the affair of Elor Azaria, the soldier convicted of killing an incapacitated Palestinian terrorist.

Members claimed that Eisenkot was deliberately harassing religious officers and soldiers. But lately, Netanyahu associates and cabinet ministers have been praising the chief of staff.

The reason for the change in attitude toward Eisenkot is the series of diplomatic and military accomplishments registered by Netanyahu in recent months. These reached their peak with the events on the northern front. Israel succeeded, at least for now, in frustrating Iran’s efforts to establish itself in Syria and in preventing an Iranian attempt to launch a major operation against IDF outposts in the Golan Heights. Eisenkot led those moves, and occasionally surprised the ministers with his determination and initiative in taking offensive action.