Against the Clock, Israel's Defense Minister Fights to Appoint Next IDF Chief

Gantz says he is willing to coordinate with Netanyahu to push through the process, after Israel's attorney general announced she is weighing the option to green light tapping a new IDF chief during election season

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Benny Gantz at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Benny Gantz at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.Credit: Nir Kadir

Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that appointing a new chief of staff for the Israel Defense Forces is a "strategic necessity," and that he is willing to consult with head of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu, who turned his back on a deal to rotate the premiership to Gantz, in order to make this happen.

This comes after Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said Wednesday that she is investigating the prospect of permitting the appointment of a new chief of staff for the IDF during the forthcoming election season.

Gantz said on Wednesday that the process of nominating the chief of staff is "a vital, strategic, security and organizational need first and foremost," and called on opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu "not to try to sabotage it, because the result will be a violation of Israel's security."

The leaders of the right-wing parties in the opposition – Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism party appealed to Baharav-Miara to stop appointments during the tenure of the caretaker government earlier this week.

The "urgent" issue has been passed on to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, before a decision will be made by Baharav-Miara's office.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will now need to explain why the nomination cannot wait, and why no short-term alternative will suffice, a statement by her office said.

"This is an appointment that has a critical impact on state security, power and management of all levels of command that will come after it," Gantz said. "I don't want to run a race against the clock, but to conduct a process in close coordination with the legal authorities."

The current chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, is due to end his term on January first and Gantz officially began the process of appointing a replacement last week. On Tuesday, Gantz said that he had a long conversation with two of the main candidates for the position, Major General Eyal Zamir and Major General Herzli Halevi, and that he intends to talk with another candidate for the position, Major General Joel Strick, on Wednesday.

Accordingly, Baharav-Miara examines government appointments and decisions taken under election law.

The Attorney General's instructions for appointments during the election period were updated in January 2021, during the term of Attorney Avichai Mandelblit. The overall document explains that appointments to public service positions should be avoided during the election period until the establishment of a new government, and instead, the possibility of temporarily extending the tenure of the incumbent should be considered.

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