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Gantz rejects far-right push to extend political ‘cool-off’ for retired IDF chief

Outgoing defense minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that he will extend the time retired senior IDF officials will have to wait before entering politics as far-right members of the incoming government appear increasingly at odds with the military, Otzma Yehudit said on Tuesday. rejected the proposal.

Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen proposed extending the so-called cooling-off period to five years. Now, for a high-ranking IDF official to enter politics, he has to wait three years after finishing his service.

On Tuesday, religious Zionist leader Bezaler Smotrich proposed extending the cooling-off period to 10 years “to keep the IDF out of politics.” His Itamar Ben Gvir, chief of Otzma Yehudit, later expressed his support for the move.

Gantz, the former IDF chief of staff, criticized the proposal to extend the cooling-off period in an interview with Channel 12 News on Tuesday.

“There is no need to extend the cooling-off law. Referring to a fellow military commander, he said,

“The former chiefs of staff and generals of the IDF are high-ranking officials in the public sphere who can contribute to the political system, and I think that does no harm,” Gantz added. I am not.”

He warned that the next administration would be extreme and “dangerous to society, dangerous to security, and internationally detrimental.”

Otuma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Guvir after the Knesset vote on December 20, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The confrontation comes amid growing friction between the incoming government’s far-right and defense officials. Prime Minister-nominated Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition includes his Likud Party, its longtime Haredi allies United Torah Judaism and Shas, and Otma Yehudit, a religious Zionist and far-right gnome faction. included.

The former chief of staff of the IDF has been in politics for a long time. In the last 30 years, Gantz, Eisenkott, Gabi He Ashkenazi, Mosheya Aron, Ehud He Barak, Amnon Lipkin Shahak, Shaul He Mofaz, and all but one have run for parliamentary seats, but with no success. There are varying degrees. Yaalon and Moffaz each served the Likud, but most belonged to the Center or Center-Left political parties.

Policies planned by the next administration include reshaping the Ministry of Defense command structure, giving Smotrich powers over the West Bank settlements, and transferring the West Bank Border Police to Ben Gwyl, among other threats to some of the security services. is strengthening

Ben Gvir did not serve in the army and Smotrich provided a shortened service in minor positions.

Smotrich called IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohabi earlier Tuesday, a day after reports surfaced that a recent phone call between Kohabi and Netanyahu had raised concerns about a coalition law that would change the powers of the military. attacked and accused him of trying to politicize the military.

Citing Ynet reporter Yossi Yehoshua, Smotrich said Kohavi was likely looking to pursue a career in politics in the future, adding a proven drive to stand up to Netanyahu to his resume. .

“Yosi Yehoshua is telling the truth about the blatant politicization Kohavi is introducing into the IDF,” Smotrich tweeted.

MK added, “Anyone, within or without consensus, who wants to maintain a unified IDF as a people’s army should pass a law requiring the chief of staff to have a cooling-off period of at least 10 years.”

Smotrich’s comments came hours after news broke that Kohabi had started a conversation with Netanyahu about concerns about “laws that may be relevant to the Israel Defense Forces” that the military confirmed.

The IDF said Netanyahu and Kohabi agreed that “decisions relating to the IDF will only be made after the IDF has presented the consequences and significance of such decisions.”

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaking at Ben Gurion University on November 30, 2022. (Dani Machlis/BGU)

Last week’s phone call between the Israeli Defense Forces chief and a man who has not yet become prime minister represented a rare instance of an army chief embarking on direct political intrigue and was orchestrated by Netanyahu and his coalition. Underscores the warnings of many Israeli institutions on reform.Partners when they come to power.

This includes plans to give Smotrich a new, independent office as a minister within the Ministry of Defense overseeing civil affairs in the West Bank, which is entirely controlled by Israel, known as Area C. And Ben Guvir plans to take control of the West Bank Border Police as part of a promised expanded role as Minister of Police. The unit is now subordinate to the Army and Ministry of Defense.

Gantz defended Kohavi and denounced Smotrich’s comments.

“Those who want to keep the IDF united will not enact draft avoidance bills or split the IDF into sub-organizations,” Gantz tweeted, passing a law exempting ultra-Orthodox Israelis from enlisting. He also mentioned the promise of the next alliance.

Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotik after coalition talks between Shas’ Arieh Deli and Likud’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, December 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gantz said he fully supports Kohavi. “We are obliged to express our expert opinion on measures that are detrimental to the safety and functioning of the IDF,” Kohabi said. He also accused Smotrich of trying to “blackmail” the current and incoming chiefs of staff to silence.

Kohavi will complete his term as IDF Director on 17 January and will be replaced by Herzi Halevi.

After 40 years in the IDF, Kohabi has not announced plans for a military career.

In recent weeks, Kohavi has made several comments warning against attempts to politicize the IDF or subvert its mandate.

Last month, the head of the IDF said political interference in military decisions was “unacceptable” after political protests involving Ben Gvir against a soldier sentenced to 10 days in a military prison for taunting left-wing activists. said.

“Neither the right nor the left will allow politicians to interfere in command decisions and use the military to advance their political agenda,” Kohabi said at the time. “Political interference with the Israel Defense Forces directly undermines the military’s mission capability and legitimacy.”

And last week, responding to settler leaders who called the Israeli Defense Forces spokespersons unit “extreme left,” Kohabi warned against “an ugly campaign that must be stopped immediately.”

He added that the army is “a people’s apolitical army, operating without prejudice or a political agenda.”

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