Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, currently the head of Southern Command, is to be appointed deputy chief of staff, putting him in a good position to become the next head of the Israel Defense Forces. Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced the appointment on Monday.
Halevi has served in a variety of key positions including chief of Military Intelligence, commander of the the Paratroopers Brigade during Operation Cast Lead with Gaza and commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. As head of Southern Command, he oversaw several rounds of combat along the Gaza border, among them Operation Black Belt, in which senior Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata was killed.
As head of Southern Command, he viewed an arrangement with Hamas as a desirable goal and favored bringing about stability. In the face of rocket fire and incendiary balloons launched from Gaza, he opted for a response of moderate force. After Operation Black Belt in November, 2019, it was revealed that Halevi had gone to Qatar with Mossad head Yossi Cohen to ask the Qataris to continue sending money to the Gaza Strip.
Gantz described Halevi as “A highly experienced officer, who carried out a variety of command and staff assignments with distinction.” Halevi, who will be replacing Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, was chosen at the recommendation of Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.
Gantz also thanked Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, another leading candidate for the position.
Early on in his service, Halevi distinguished himself as an outstanding officer who was likely to reach the top of the force. He has served in a wide variety of key positions since he was drafted in 1985 to the paratroopers. In 1993 he moved to Sayeret Matkal, becoming commander of the elite force in 2001. In 2005 he headed the Menashe Regional Brigade and in 2007 he returned to the Paratroopers Brigade as commander.
In 2009 he was appointed head of the operations brigade in the Intelligence Branch, and two years later, became head of the Galilee Division. In 2013 he was appointed commander of the Command and Staff College. A year later, he was promoted to major general as the head of the Intelligence Branch. After several rounds of fighting along the Gaza border, former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot named him head of Southern Command in 2018.
Halevi has on several occasions expressed concern about social issues. When demonstrations erupted in the Ethiopian immigrant community after a policeman killed a community member, Solomon Teka, Halevi wrote to the commanders in the Southern Command: “I’m writing to you about a topic that isn’t operational or professional, but it’s essential.” He noted in the same letter that “The protest is legitimate, understandable and even necessary.”
As head of Military Intelligence, he was quoted at an event held by the Reform Jewish community as saying that he was concerned about the lack of cohesion in Israeli society, which he said was more worrisome to him than terror threats against the state.