IDF Planning Directorate Head Amir Eshel
has been appointed the new Air Force commander, Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed on Sunday. Eshel will replace outgoing Major General Ido Nehushtan.
Eshel beat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
Military Secretary Yochanan Locker
in the race for the elite position. Locker is expected to become the next military attaché in Washington.
A couple of weeks ago Yedioth Ahronoth reported Netanyahu and IDF
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz
were battling it out behind the scenes over the appointment, as the PM vigorously pushed for the appointment of Locker, who is believed to support an Israeli strike
on Iran's nuclear facilities. However Gantz opposed the move, wanting Eshel, known for objecting to an Iran strike, to take the post.
Eshel. The next Air Force commander (Photo: Roni Aviv, Bamahane)
Notably, some senior army officials claim that the two candidates hold identical views on the Iran issue and have not yet been asked to present their stance. One way or another, it appears that the issue of a strike in Iran prompted the prime minister to intervene in the appointment.
The battle over the next Air Force chief, which up to now was conducted behind the scenes, reached the Knesset's State Control Committee last week, where Army Chief Gantz presented a decisive stance regarding his right to name the next IAF commander.
"Officers must not be appointed in contradiction to the army chief's view, and the Air Force commander is just like any other general," Gantz told the Committee, which discussed the State Comptroller's Report on IDF appointments. "That's why we have an army chief – he summons the candidates, and he is the one who provides the explanations. The army chief is trusted by the government to run the military, and this is how it should be done."
Eshel was born in 1959 in Jaffa and enlisted to the Air Force in 1977, fighting during the First Lebanon War
in 1982. Eshel is married and is a father of three.