The IDF-affiliated Army Radio station will no longer be part of Israel’s security establishment - this is according to an order by Defense and Communications Minister Benny Gantz, who decided on Thursday to act on the recommendation of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
Army Radio began its broadcast in 1950 and is considered one of Israel's most prominent and important radio stations, among other things, due to being where many of Israel's most noteworthy journalists, artists and creators began their career.
The Defense Ministry stated that “an inter-ministerial team will be set up, headed by Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amir Eshel who will devise a plan to privatize or shutter the station."
The ministry's announcement claimed that the decision to separate the long-running station from the army was made “due to the desire to disconnect the defense establishment and the IDF from the activities of an independent radio station... as well as the need to separate between the service of IDF soldiers and the activities of a media outlet in which uniformed soldiers are dabbling in political content."
The decision, which was made on the recommendation of the chief of staff, is a matter of values and not of budget. Free media in Israel is extremely important, and I will continue to defend it and ensure its independence, but the existence of a military station in the IDF is unreasonable at this time,” said the defense minister.
“I have decided that uniformed soldiers will not engage in politics in any position. This is unacceptable and contradicts the IDF's values, the [station’s] obligatory integrity and its proper conduct. I appreciate the station and its contribution to Israeli media, and to the variety of opinions and voices in the media. It would be right to find another channel for its continued activity,” added Gantz.
The decision to go through with the move will be left to the next defense minister, due to the dissolution of the government and the upcoming March elections.
Kochavi, however, is expected to demand the decision be carried out and the station’s affiliation with the army removed, reasoning that “the station should not be part of the IDF because it isn’t right and borderline immoral.”
Kochavi’s predecessor, Gadi Eisenkot, also worked to disconnect the station from the military during his time as chief of staff, though his recommendation was vehemently shot down by then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman.
Army Radio issued a response in which it calls to it must be protected as an inalienable asset of the country.
“Army Radio, which marks its 70th anniversary, is an asset to Israeli culture and society. Army Radio is home for soldiers, home for Israeli creation, culture and art, a home for countless excellent journalists. Army Radio is home for Israeli democracy and a protected flower that must be guarded in its entirety.”