Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has already made his choice for the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, although the four candidates have not been informed yet, according to an interview with the chief of defense published Thursday.
Lieberman began the process of selecting a new chief of staff last month by interviewing candidates for the post: Major General Aviv Kochavi, Major General Yair Golan, Major General Nitzan Alon and Major General Eyal Zamir.
“I have already decided who I will recommend for the post of the new chief of staff, and I have also decided who will be his deputy,” Lieberman told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, adding that the officers do not yet know who has been elected.
As Minister of Defense, Lieberman has the legal task of recommending the next head of the IDF for government approval.
“All candidates have pros and cons,” he said. “I looked for someone to speak to me in terms of decisive action and victory and the most important value in my eyes is victory, not explanations.
Deputy Chief of Staff Kochavi is seen as the favorite for the post, having served as head of the IDF Northern Command and head of Military Intelligence after years as a field commander in the Paratroopers Brigade
Alon previously served as head of IDF operations, controlling the day-to-day activities of the military, and previously was the commander of the Central Command, which controls Judea and Samaria (West Bank). He was recently appointed the senior director for the multi-pronged military operations against Iran.
Zamir served until recently as head of the Southern Command, overseeing the construction of a huge underground barrier around the Gaza Strip to thwart the tunnels of border attack by terrorist groups. Prior to that, he served as military secretary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In recent weeks, former Deputy Chief of Staff Golan, who served as head of the Northern Command and head of the Internal Front Command, has faced a campaign to remove him from consideration as head of the IDF for the controversial remarks he made in 2016 and 2006.
Speaking at a national ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2016, Golan warned of disturbing trends in Israeli society that he said were reminiscent of those seen in Germany in the run-up to World War II. Shortly after making those statements, a recording of his remarks in 2006, when he was head of the Judea and Samaria division of the army, emerged in which he said that IDF soldiers should take risks to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians.
In the interview, Lieberman said that the outgoing Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, has been a “true partner” and that despite some setbacks, his relationship was mainly one of trust.
He added that his successor would have to implement several plans, mainly a new ground-to-ground missile project.
“It’s not a defense system; it’s a new system of deterrence and attack,” Lieberman said.
As for the Gaza Strip, Lieberman, who before becoming defense minister promised to liquidate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh within 48 hours of his appointment, said that overthrowing Hamas would be costly.
“There are two options: overthrowing Hamas using the IDF and paying a considerable price, including the need to govern Gaza, or trying to bring about a situation in which the regime is overthrown by the citizens themselves. The second option guarantees much more stability,” he said.
Lieberman insisted that the terrorist group that rules Gaza and swore the destruction of Israel does not have broad support in the Strip, as most believe.
“It’s not a guess, I know. In the free elections in the Strip, there is no way Hamas can win,” he said.
Earlier this month, Lieberman’s office said it was struggling to appoint the next army chief by the end of the year despite two motions to the High Court questioning the eligibility of two members of the investigating committee, which appears to have delayed the process.
Eliezer Goldberg, the committee’s chairman, and former Supreme Court justice, recently informed Lieberman that there was little point in submitting the names of the candidates because the committee had been ” overridden ” and could not make a recommendation until the petitions were resolved, Hadashot’s news reported.
The petitions will probably only be dealt with by the Supreme Court in September.
The petitions allege that committee members Yaakov Nagel and Iris Stark may have conflicts of interest. Nagel is a former national security adviser to Netanyahu, and Stark is reported to have several business interests linked to various government ministries.