Maj.-gen Aviv Kochavi will enter the 14th floor of the Kirya in Tel Aviv to take over as the IDF top officer from Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who will be exiting the building for the last time.
Kochavi will assume the post of Israel’s 22nd Chief of Staff during times that are turbulent, both militarily and politically. Militarily, the IDF is contending with Iran on its northern borders while Hamas continues to push Gazans towards the security fence in the south, and the atmosphere in the West Bank remains tense.
Israel’s strongest ally, the United States, is withdrawing its forces from Syria, and several high-ranking officials and generals have resigned in protest.
Those men include: Secretary of Defense James Mattis; the former envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS Brett McGurk; Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Anthony Zinni, who had been tasked with resolving the Qatar dispute.
Mattis and Dunford have been replaced, the former by Patrick Shanahan, a Boeing executive with no military experience, and the latter by Gen. Mark Milley, who has an extensive military background, especially in the Middle East.
During his term, Eisenkot took credit for “thousands” of airstrikes in war-torn Syria over the past two years, dropping many millions of shekels of munitions on Iranian and Hezbollah targets. He had clear partners in Washington, men who spoke his language and understood the urgency for Israel to defend itself.
But, with the US pull-out from Syria and a change of the guard in Washington, Israel’s pillar of stability is gone. Countries like Russia, Iran and Turkey are filling the void. They do not care for Israel’s interests.
Politically, Israel is gearing up for elections on April 9 and, critical for Kochavi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also acting as Defense Minister.
Despite being appointed as chief of staff, Kochavi was not the Prime Minister’s first pick. Rumor has it that Netanyahu preferred Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir for the top position, and scolded then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman when he was told that Kochavi would be recommended for the role.
But, that’s not what is important for the chief of staff.
A Defense Minister preoccupied with getting reelected as well as fighting three corruption investigations is more of concern. However, it is Kochavi who will have the final say on defense matters.