Former Israel Navy Commander Avraham 'Cheetah' Botzer Commits Suicide

Officer credited with expanding navy's reach and preparing it for Yom Kippur War.

Retired IDF Maj. Gen. Avraham ("Cheetah" ) Botzer, who commanded the navy from 1968-1972, died on Sunday. Born in Poland in 1929, he committed suicide in Tel Aviv.

Born in Poland in 1929, Botzer served in the elite Palmach unit and joined the newly-formed navy during the War of Independence. A high point of his service occurred during the Six Day War when he headed the Red Sea Fleet that sailed from Eilat to Sharm el-Sheikh, taking control of an Egyptian base before an IDF Paratrooper unit reached the site in an airborne operation. That accomplishment came at a time when Israel's navy endured a number of setbacks.

A few weeks after the 1967 war, the "Eilat" battleship was sunk by Egyptian forces and in early 1968 the Dakar submarine disappeared. Such mishaps shortened the term of then-navy commander Maj. Gen. Shlomo Arel, and Botzer was appointed commander of the navy at age 39. During his term the navy's reputation improved significantly. Naval units participated in military operations during the War of Attrition against Egypt.

On Botzer's watch, the navy managed to smuggle three missile boats from the French port of Cherbourg and incorporate them into the IDF. Prior to Botzer's stint as commander, the navy had operated mainly in the Mediterranean Sea and Sea of Galilee; during his time, it became fully active in the Red Sea, and Botzer, whose term as navy chief ended about a year before the Yom Kippur War, is credited with creating an infrastructure that enabled the navy to carry out important actions in the Red Sea during the 1973 war.