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Chief of General Staff (Israel)

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Title: Chief of General Staff (Israel)  
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Subject: Israel Defense Forces, Gabi Ashkenazi, Shaul Mofaz, 2011 in Israel, Haim Bar-Lev
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Chief of General Staff (Israel)

The Chief of the General Staff, also known as the Commander-in-Chief of the Israel Defense Forces (, Rosh HaMateh HaKlali, abbr. Ramatkal—) 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, its 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

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 16 February 2015, the Chief of General Staff is Gadi Eizenkot.


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. Five former Chiefs of Staff (Dayan, Rabin, Barak, Mofaz, and Ya'alon) 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 CEO 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

Order Name Dates
1st Yaakov Dori 1947–49
2nd Yigael Yadin 1949–52
3rd Mordechai Maklef 1952–53
4th Moshe Dayan 1953–58
5th Haim Laskov 1958–61
6th Tzvi Tzur 1961–64
7th Yitzhak Rabin 1964–68
8th Haim Bar-Lev 1968–72
9th David Elazar 1972–74
10th Mordechai Gur 1974–78
11th Rafael Eitan 1978–83
12th Moshe Levi 1983–87
13th Dan Shomron 1987–91
14th Ehud Barak 1991–95
15th Amnon Lipkin-Shahak 1995–98
16th Shaul Mofaz 1998–2002
17th Moshe Ya'alon 2002–05
18th Dan Halutz 2005–07
19th Gabi Ashkenazi 2007–11
20th Benny Gantz 2011–15
21st Gadi Eizenkot[1] 2015–


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