image Photo: IDF, Flash90

New IDF Chief assumes post

IDF Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi is now the Israeli military’s 23rd Chief of General Staff.

By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner

During a festive ceremony in Jerusalem, Israeli Defense Minister Major General (Res.) Yoav Gallant highlighted the significance of the role of the IDF Chief of General Staff.

“Friends of the State of Israel and its enemies perceive it, and rightly so, as a regional power with intelligence, military, technological and economic capabilities. The IDF is a powerful, deterring, initiating and offensive military that does not hesitate to take risks, and uses force frequently and vigorously for the purpose of influencing reality and shaping it,” he said.

Iran is at the center of the many “challenges and worsening threats,” said the country’s top defense official, due to development of a large-scale missile apparatus alongside a military nuclear program that is “in the most advanced and dangerous state ever.” Addressing “even closer enemies,” Minister Gallant warned that “the potential for deterioration in Lebanon and Gaza is always present, and also the possibility of escalation in Judea and Samaria must be taken into account. All of these highlight a clear fact: the role of the Chief of General Staff was and still is a central pillar in the effort to protect the country and guarantee its sovereignty.”

In apparent reference to recent controversy over the recent government appointments that ceded some authority over the military, Gen. Gallant vowed on to keep the country’s conscript soldiers free of politics.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party retained the Defense Ministry, which runs the authority that coordinates policy in the West Bank, coalition agreements afforded new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir command over the Border Police and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich power to establish some policy over Jewish communities in the districts of the Jordan Valley, Judea and Samaria.

“I will ensure that outside pressures – political, legal and others – stop with me and do not reach the gates of the IDF,” said the Defense Minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu used his speech to stress the need for a demonstrative “determination of purpose” to counter all “threats directed against us, mainly from Iran and its terror proxies.” Emphasizing it is critical for Israel to maintain its Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) to avert all-out war, the Premier reiterate his long-held conviction that ‘those who seek peace must prepare for war and those who are fit for war will achieve peace.’

Gen. Halevi, whose military track record may redefine the word “impressive,” formerly served as Deputy to outgoing Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi, also headed the IDF Southern Command and the elite Sayeret Matkal special forces unit. He was chosen due to his proven track record as a commander in the field and at the General Staff. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and business, and a graduate degree from the National Defense University in Washington.

“In the 75 years of our independence, we turned into a state encircled by enemies into a state which engulfs its enemies by its power and advanced capabilities. However, around us, a variety of many threats are emerging from the Iranian problem for which Israel has decisive responsibility in preparing for solving it, via the northern border and Gaza Strip, and also the challenges in Judea and Samaria,” said the incoming IDF Chief, underscoring, “Our answer to these threats emerges from our qualitative security, deterrence, advanced capability and elevated form. Our enemies should know that whatever we say we also know to execute. And whatever we are willing to do, includes much beyond whatever we are saying.”

Halevi, who though raised in a Jewish religious-nationalist home has avoided public displays of piety or politics, added, “We will preserve one IDF – purposeful, principled and professional, shorn of any consideration that is not related to defense.”

Outgoing IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi expressed deep gratitude for his past four years at the helm of the military, when Israel has emerged stronger and more capable by every measure.

“Thanks to daily arrests of terrorists in the heart of (Palestinian) refugee camps, through the destruction of weapons in the depth of enemy states, and via complex operations, this is a military that collects intelligence, thwarts and attacks. It is a military that initiates, protects the citizens of the state, improves its security situation and creates regional deterrence,” said the former IDF leader, explaining that work is evidenced by daily images of parents accompanying children to kindergarten, full parks and peaceful meals on the Sabbath.

“I was given the privilege to command the IDF which I reminded myself of many times over. It is a privilege; I told myself (repeatedly) ‘I am thankful,’” he said, adding that, “I am generally and deeply thankful but feel an obligation to thank many. I thank all of my commanders over the years – I have learned from you all. I thank my partners at the NSC, Government offices, Defense Ministry. I thank all of the security organizations with which together we proved that our cooperation is a national asset. I thank the U.S. military and its Central Command for our deep and rooted partnership. I thank Parliament Member Avigdor Lieberman for the trust he granted me. I thank the Premiers and Defense Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid, Yoav Galant and especially Benny Gantz, for their partnership, seriousness and responsibility.”