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In rare move, IDF chief initiates call with Netanyahu, shares concerns over plan to put ministers over military command

Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi talk during official celebrations of Israel's 71st Independence Day, at the President's residence in Jerusalem, May 9, 2019. (Photo: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi called Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally to express his concerns over his coalition’s demands for military authority, according to IDF reports. 

The phone call happened last week, as a number of Israeli institutions raised concerns about the politicization of the military. 

According to an IDF spokesperson, Kochavi initiated the call to Netanyahu with the approval of Defense Minister Benny Gantz. 

The chief of staff reportedly told Netanyahu — who was prime minister when Kochavi was appointed in 2018 — that he is concerned about the consequences of transferring units under the control and responsibility of the IDF to the authority of a governmental representative in the Ministry of Defense, and the minister of national security. 

Kochavi made the phone call after the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed an amendment to Israel’s Basic Law allowing the transfer of two military units. 

Kochavi also expressed his displeasure with the decision to appoint the chief rabbi of the IDF using an external search committee. 

While Netanyahu’s office did not discuss the call, an IDF spokesperson reported Netanyahu “agreed that decisions related to the IDF will be made after the IDF presents the consequences that would arise from these decisions.” 

The calls were leaked to Hebrew news media and only confirmed afterwards by the IDF, which stated that it did not leak the calls and said the IDF should be “kept out of political discourse.”

Late on Tuesday, Bezalel Smotrich, one of the ministers who will assume control over the military units if the law is changed, blasted Kochavi, saying the IDF chief of staff “grossly intervened.” Smotrich also called for a longer “cooling off” period before former chiefs of staff are allowed to enter politics.

Kochavi will complete his four-year term on Jan. 17 and replaced Herzi Halevi. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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