Two Years After Retirement, Naveh Named Next IDF Deputy Chief

Neveh, 53, retired from the IDF in 2008 and is now CEO of CityPass, the company managing Jerusalem's light rail project.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yair Naveh has been named the Israel Defense Forces next deputy chief of staff and will serve under the newly appointed chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, when he takes office in February.

Yair Naveh, Archive

Neveh, 53, retired from the IDF in 2008; his last post was GOC Central Command. He is currently the CEO of CityPass, which is managing Jerusalem's light rail project.

Naveh met Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and agreed to the appointment in principle. He will replace the current deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, who is to retire from active service.

Before offering the position to Naveh, Barak and Galant offered it to GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot, who turned it down. Galant currently is GOC Southern Command.

GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi and Israel Air Force commander Ido Nechushtan were also reportedly considered for the position but were not offered it.

Naveh will replace Gantz before Galant replaces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

Naveh reportedly told Barak and Galant that he expects his return to active service will enable him to contend for the post of chief of staff at the end of Galant's term in 2014. Given the small number of potential candidates, he is likely to be considered a realistic successor.

The final announcement of Naveh's appointment will be made within a few days.

Galant will have in Naveh an officer with a wealth of experience in ground warfare - and a similar wealth of experience in slips of tongue and controversial actions.

Naveh began his army career in the Golani Brigade in 1975, where he served as a company commander during Operation Litani and in the First Lebanon War.

A graduate of the Netiv Meir Yeshiva, Naveh was the commander of the IDF's first brigade of Orthodox soldiers and was subsequently appointed commander of the Golani Brigade.

His first media exposure came at the end of the first intifada in 1993 when he reluctantly explained to journalists, at the behest of then-chief of staff Ehud Barak, the violent behavior of his soldiers in the Gaza Strip.

Naveh also served as chief infantry officer and commander of the Gaza Division from 1999 to 2001.

The second intifada broke out during his service in Gaza. At the time, he was both praised for his determination and criticized for carrying out actions without the approval of his superiors.

In April 2001, he caused a diplomatic incident after the IDF entered the Gaza Strip, when he told the media that the operation would go on for "as long as it takes, days, weeks and even months."

At the end of his period in Gaza, Naveh was accused of sexual harassment by a female officer in his bureau for touching her clothing and making sexual innuendos. He was tried and acquitted of charges of behavior unbecoming to an officer.

In 2005, ahead of the disengagement from Gaza, he was appointed GOC Central Command. There, too, he ruffled diplomatic feathers when in a lecture in Jerusalem he said he believed King Abdullah would be the last king of Jordan. He also angered the national-religious community by overseeing the evacuation of communities in the northern West Bank.

Naveh was a candidate for deputy chief of staff under the current IDF chief, Ashkenazi, but did not receive the appointment and retired from the IDF in 2008.

Naveh's name was in the news again recently when it was reported that journalist Anat Kamm took classified documents from his office during her army service.

As deputy chief of staff, Naveh would temporarily replace the chief of staff should the latter be incapacitated or abroad.

This issue was raised recently by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in his report on senior appointments in the IDF. Lindenstrauss noted that there is no law governing the matter, and instead the IDF relies on the custom whereby the defense minister recommends to the cabinet that the deputy chief of staff fill in for his boss. Lindenstrauss urged that legislation proposed on the matter be seen through.

In an effort to increase public oversight over the deputy chief of staff selection process, Lindenstrauss said the new appointee should be presented to the committee in charge of vetting senior appointments.