The 22nd IDF chief started his day with a ceremony at the Kirya IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he received the rank of lieutenant general from Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"'I swear.' This is what I called out alongside my fellow soldiers in front of the Western Wall, which was for us a wall of support and protection. It has been 2,000 years, and this wall of protection has expanded and become the Israel Defense Force. I swore in front of generations of soldiers and became another link in the chain of generations that come each in turn to defend the state," the new IDF chief Kochavi said.
"'I swear,' every soldier calls out, and packs into these two words the relinquishing of the private for the national. The national home is a wonderful creation like no other in the history of nations, but it is planted in a region that for religious and national reasons is trying to reject its natural roots. To defend our national home, we need a sobered outlook, a fit military force, the willingness to use that force, discretion and determination," he said.
To his predecessor Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Kochavi said, "In this spirit, Gadi, the IDF acted under your leadership and has repeatedly proven its abilities as the defender of the borders and the interior, using its long arm to destroy any threats. During your tenure, the IDF bolstered its units and increased its preparedness. I stand at the head of the military and on behalf of all of its soldiers and commanders, I thank and salute you."
Concluding his remarks, Kochavi went back to his sworn oath at the beginning of his service in the IDF. "Like every soldier in his swear-in ceremony, I vowed at the time to dedicate all of my efforts to defending the homeland. Now, as the head of the General Staff, while I have national security and the good of the state before me, I make a new vow. There is much work to be done, good luck to us all," Kochavi said.
Eisenkot summed up his own service in his remarks. "At the end of 40 years of service and four years as the IDF chief, I conclude a path that became my life's mission," he said.
Describing his objectives as IDF chief, Eisenkot said he sought to leave behind "a fit, prepared and powerful military that bolstered its strength with wisdom and determination."
To Kochavi, Eisenkot said, "Proudly I seek to pass on to you the command over the most precious asset of our nation—the Israel Defense Forces. The command over the military is passed on today to you, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, a commander worthy like no other to stand at the head of the Israel Defense Forces."
"The military I give to you today is advanced and remains true to its roots and spirit. Over the many years in which we worked together in the field and in the General Staff, it has been my privilege to get to know you as a commander with immense fortitude and leadership and command abilities. Your determination and extensive experience will be dedicated in full to bolstering the IDF's preparedness and strength, maintaining its character and values, and nurturing the pride in the heart of its soldiers."
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Netanyahu began his remarks by thanking Eisenkot for his 40 years of service.
"Over the past four years, we have dealt with great challenges: the changing fronts in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and other places. But there has also been on main element facing us: Iran and its terror proxies. We acted responsibly and with discretion to stop those who seek to harm us from growing stronger," Netanyahu said.
"All of the actions we've taken in recent years to build up the IDF's power were meant to bolster the military's readiness and achieve one goal: victory in war. And the stronger we are, the more we increase the chances of peace," he said.
Netanyahu boasted about the warming ties with Muslim nations, saying that "Thanks to our intelligence, operational and technological capabilities, our ties with the Arab world are growing stronger than ever before. Leading Muslim nations are getting closer to us. They realize we're not their enemy, but a vital ally to lean on. By growing our military, our economy and our diplomacy, we have turned Israel into a rising world power."
Eisenkot, he said, was a part of it as he met with his counterparts from Arab nations.
"Lt. Gen. Kochavi, you have a red beret on your shoulder, which symbolizes the special spirit of the Paratroopers: the steadfastness, the order 'after me,' and constantly striving for excellence," he said.
"As an experienced military leader, you will now carry the grave responsibility of ensuring that the IDF fulfills its missions," Netanyahu said. "The objective is clear: To ensure our superiority over our enemies and to increase the qualitative edge we have over them. First, we'll work to bolster our offensive capabilities even more. We will ensure we have a crushing fist to attack our enemies with, both close and far."
Concluding his remarks, the prime minister said that "if we are prepared to defend our country with all of our might, we might not have to fight an all-out war. And if we do, the IDF will handle this challenge, as will the citizens of Israel who will be united, and together we will ensure Israel's eternal existence."
Kochavi and Eisenkot will later travel to Jerusalem to visit the National Hall of Remembrance on Mount Herzl and the Western Wall, and then have lunch at the President's Residence. After that, Kochavi will join the IDF's General Staff for a toast and a goodbye from Eisenkot at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, including an honorary guard for the outgoing IDF chief.
Kochavi, who was born in 1964, grew up in Kiryat Bialik. He is the second of the three children of the late Riba, who was a physical education teacher, and Shaul, a shop owner.
He began his IDF service in the Paratroopers' Brigade, excelled at infantry officers' course and went on to serve as the commander of the 101st Battalion, the commander of the Paratroopers' Brigade, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate (MID), the GOC Northern Command, and the deputy IDF chief. He has a bachelor's degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a master's from Harvard University.
Yoav Zitun, Korin Elbaz Alush, Itamar Eichner contributed to this story.