Kochavi's new challenges as chief of staff
Analysis: The new IDF chief of staff will need to find a way to keep the army outside the political game amid the April 9 elections, formulate a national plan to boost motivation among new recruits, and make the adjustments needed to handle Israel's volatile fronts.
As the Military Intelligence Directorate head, Kochavi upgraded the methods employed by the IDF to gather intelligence, promoted research and developed the field of cyber as well as established new units. He will do his best to duplicate this success as the army chief. But as chief of staff, he will be forced to work under different conditions.
Even before mentioning the challenges posed by our enemies and the fact the General Staff knew better days than these, Kochavi's starting point is rather complicated.
The new chief of staff was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first choice for the desirable post. In addition, Kochavi will not have a full-time defense minister at his side (since Netanyahu also holds the defense portfolio).
Furthermore, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir and military Intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Tamir Heiman—who did not come from the intelligence community— were appointed not too long ago.
Kochavi's first challenge will be keeping the IDF outside the political game amid the April 9 elections. He must be cautious, responsible, and brave in order to succedd in that mission.
His second challenge will concern the IDF's manpower, both its conscript and reserve soldiers. While the drop in motivation to serve in combat units is not the military's fault, it is still its main problem.
In cooperation with the Education Ministry, Kochavi will need to formulate a national plan to change this gloomy picture, because with all due respect to the IDF's advanced technology, the army cannot exist without Israel's finest youth.
Moreover, the new chief of staff will have to find a way to keep career soldiers in the army, in both the technological apparatus and in combat units.
Convincing company commanders to pursue a career in the army when most of their job comes down to carrying out operations in the territories and firing at infiltrators trying to breach the security fence is becoming challenging, especially in light of the fact they know the political echelon does not believe in maneuvering ground forces, not to mention their relatively low salaries in comparison to the job market.
Former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot ended his term without launching a war, while his successor has four volatile fronts to contend with—Iran and its entrenchment attempts in Syria, Hezbollah on the Lebanese border, Hamas that rules Gaza, and the simmering West Bank.
Russia's restrictions make every Israeli airstrike in Syria more complicated to carry out, while Damascus' air defense systems are improving. In addition, Iran continues smuggling high-precision guided weapons into Syria and Lebanon, and the chances for a Syrian retaliation are on the rise.
Eisenkot ends his tenure with the northern front free of cross-border terror tunnels, however, the Jewish state's overarching goal is to prepare the army for a victory on that front, which will require the restoration of deterrence against Hamas that has weakened following the recent less than successful rounds of fighting in Gaza.
In addition, the inheritance battle after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas step down will create a new—and not necessarily a better— reality.
Kochavi, who is intelligent, reasonable and known for his self-criticism, will be very careful not to stir up media scandals, and therefore refrain from making outrageous statements during his term.
But the new chief of staff's past actions in Lebanon, the West Bank and during his term as the Gaza Division Commander indicate he will not hesitate to apply force when needed.
Kochavi is suitable and well-prepared to fill his new position, however, if he fails to make all the required changes, especially in the structure of the army and its adjustments to current challenges, he will find himself as the right man in the wrong place.