Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi pledged on his first day as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces to keep politics out of the military, and issued a stern warning to Israel’s foes:
“Our enemies should know: We can do what we say we will do, and we are ready to do much more than what we say.”
Halevi made the remark at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, where he was formally promoted, and continued:
“We will prepare the IDF for war against arenas far and near; we will expand quality recruitment to the IDF from all strata of the population, the source of our strength; we will strengthen the reserve army and maintain a united, focused, moral and professional IDF, free from all considerations other than security.”
The comments were apparently aimed at Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich, who also holds a special ministerial-level role within Israel’s Defense Ministry, overseeing the civil administration of Judea and Samaria. Oversight of Judea and Samaria’s civil infrastructure was previously held by the Defense Minister. Outgoing Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and other members of the security establishment objected to the arrangement, which the Knesset approved.
Defense Minister Yoav Galant made a similar vow:
“For every soldier and officer – there is one commander above all, the Chief of Staff, the highest command in the army, subordinate to the Minister of Defense. I will make sure outside pressure – political, legal and otherwise – stop at me and do not reach the gates of the IDF.”
Following the ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office, Halevi paid customary visits to the National Memorial Hall for Israel’s Fallen next to the Mount Herzl military cemetery and to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. The holy site is the remainder of a retaining wall around the Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples of biblical times stood.
Defender of Israel
As is customary for an incoming IDF Chief of Staff, Halevi wrote his solemn promise to the Almighty and placed it as a prayer to heaven in the cracks of the Western Wall. It read:
“Here in this place that bears the memory of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, I swear to lead the IDF as the defender of the State of Israel and its citizens, out of the same values and spirit that guided generations of soldiers and commanders in the defense of the state, the people and the land.”
The rabbis then presented Halevi with a copy of the Book of Psalms, upon which they wrote:
“The book of Psalms combines courage and humility to guide the leaders of Israel and direct their paths. This book will be a signpost to lead the soldiers of the IDF in protecting the inhabitants of the Holy Land.”
The entire affair could easily be compared to the anointing of a new military leader by the Temple priests in biblical times.
Who is Herzi Halevi?
Halevi, 55, has been in military service since 1985, starting off as a paratrooper and climbing the ranks ever since. He was nominated for Chief of Staff by former Defense Minister Benny Gantz in September. The position of Chief of Staff is a three-year appointment with the possibility of a one-year extension.
Married with four children, Halevi lives in Kfar Oranim, in the Binyamin region. Born and raised in Jerusalem, Halevi is the first graduate of a religious high school to become Chief of Staff.
With reporting by TPS.
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