Chief of General Staff (Israel)

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Chief of the General Staff
Flag of IDF Chief of Staff.svg
Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - 20th Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.jpg
Incumbent
Benny Gantz

since 14 February 2011
Residence HaKirya,
Tel Aviv
Appointer Minister of Defense
Inaugural holder Yaakov Dori
1947

The Chief of the General Staff, also known as the Commander-in-Chief of the Israel Defense Forces (Hebrew: ראש המטה הכללי, Rosh HaMateh HaKlali, abbr. Ramatkalרמטכ"ל) is the supreme commander and Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

At any given time, the Chief of Staff is the only active officer holding the IDF's highest rank, rav aluf (Hebrew: רב-אלוף‎), which is usually translated into English as lieutenant general, a three-star rank. (The lone exception to this rule occurred during the Yom Kippur War, when former Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev, who was a government member at the moment of war outbreak, was brought out of retirement and installed as chief of Southern Command. For a brief period, he and Chief of Staff David Elazar were both in active service with the rank of rav aluf.)

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is an integrated force, ranks are the same in all services. It has a slightly compacted rank structure; for instance, the Chief of Staff (Ramatkal or rav aluf (Hebrew: רב-אלוף)) is seemingly only equivalent to a lieutenant general (NATO OF-8) in other militaries. Rav aluf means 'arch-general', which would be equal to a field marshal or five star general in other armies and equivalent to OF-10.

Legal position[edit]

The position of ramatkal is defined in the Basic Law: The Military (1976), clause three:

  • The supreme command rank in the military is that of the Chief of the General Staff
  • The Chief of the General Staff is to be placed under the authority of the government and subordinate to the Defense Minister
  • The Chief of the General Staff is to be appointed by the government, according to the recommendation of the Defense Minister

The Chief of Staff is formally appointed once every three years, with the government often extending the term to four years, and in some occasions, even five. As of June 18, 2013, the Chief of General Staff is Benny Gantz.

Significance[edit]

Given the importance of the IDF in Israeli society, the Chief of Staff is an important public figure in Israel. Former Chiefs of Staff often parlay the prominence of their position into political life, and sometimes the business world. Two Chiefs of Staff (Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak) have become Prime Minister of Israel and nine others (Yigael Yadin, Moshe Dayan, Tzvi Tzur, Haim Bar-Lev, Mordechai Gur, Rafael Eitan, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon) have served in the Knesset. Of these, only Tzur did not get appointed to the Cabinet. Four former Chiefs of Staff (Dayan, Rabin, Barak, and Mofaz) held the position of Defense Minister, widely considered to be the most powerful ministerial post in the country and the immediate civilian superior of the Chief of Staff; of these, Mofaz is the only one to serve as Defense Minister over his immediate successor as Chief of Staff (in Mofaz's case, Ya'alon). Moshe Dayan served also as Foreign Minister. Soon after his discharge, Dan Halutz became the C.E.O. of a prestigious car importer. Ehud Barak took a hiatus from politics twice after defeats for re-election and pursued successful international business ventures.

List of IDF Chiefs of Staff[edit]

Order Name Dates Unit of commission
1st Yaakov Dori 1947–49 Haganah
2nd Yigael Yadin 1949–52 Haganah
3rd Mordechai Maklef 1952–53 British Army
4th Moshe Dayan 1953–58 Haganah
5th Haim Laskov 1958–61 British Army
6th Tzvi Tzur 1961–64 British Army
7th Yitzhak Rabin 1964–68 Haganah
8th Haim Bar-Lev 1968–72 Haganah
9th David Elazar 1972–74 Haganah
10th Mordechai Gur 1974–78 Haganah and Paratroopers
11th Rafael Eitan 1978–83 Haganah and Paratroopers
12th Moshe Levi 1983–87 Infantry Corps (Golani)
13th Dan Shomron 1987–91 Infantry Corps (Paratroopers)
14th Ehud Barak 1991–95 Special Forces (Sayeret Matkal)
15th Amnon Lipkin-Shahak 1995–98 Infantry Corps (Paratroopers)
16th Shaul Mofaz 1998–2002 Infantry Corps (Paratroopers)
17th Moshe Ya'alon 2002–05 Paratroopers and Sayeret Matkal
18th Dan Halutz 2005–07 Israeli Air Force
19th Gabi Ashkenazi 2007–11 Infantry Corps (Golani)
20th Benny Gantz 2011– Infantry Corps (Paratroopers)