IDF chief quietly asks that coronavirus leadership pass to army control

IDF Chief of Staff requests that the military take over managing the coronavirus crisis in Israel.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

In a confidential letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, IDF Chief of Staff General Aviv Kochavi asked for the IDF to take over responsibility for managing the coronavirus crisis in Israel.

Israel Hayom reported that Kochavi’s letter was sent discreetly, likely to bypass possible objections from parties currently involved in managing the pandemic.

It’s reported that Kochavi wanted to avoid being perceived as interfering in the ongoing political negotiations between Netanyahu and Bennett, and in the debate over the transfer of crisis management from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Defense.

Kochavi highlighted several issues in his letter, explaining why he believed that, moving forward, the IDF should be spearheading efforts to manage the virus.

Among other things, he wrote that the IDF should be responsible for conducting the coronavirus tests in order to achieve a much larger scope of testing than is currently taking place.

The chief of staff further wrote that the IDF could concentrate all the information collected on the coronavirus crisis in one central place, which would streamline efforts against the virus.

This point likely addressed criticism of a lack of centralized strategy in the government’s efforts and that information had been siloed, preventing the sharing of data between ministries.

Kochavi listed other areas in which the IDF has a distinct advantage and why it should take the lead in handling the crisis.

The letter confirms that the IDF is ready to assume full responsibility in efforts to manage the health crisis. The IDF has been preparing for this possibility since the outbreak.

Several weeks ago, army leadership unanimously decided that they wanted to formally request to take over responsibility for fighting coronavirus from the Ministry of Health.

The IDF has volunteered troops and resources to carry out tasks assigned by the health ministry, such as distributing food to residents of the hard-hit city of Bnei Brak, and has made several proposals to undertake additional efforts in other areas.

Many assume that Kochavi’s letter expresses dissatisfaction within the IDF about the way the crisis has been managed thus far.

When asked for comment by Israel Hayom, the IDF spokesperson said in a statement: “The IDF maintains an ongoing dialogue with the political leadership throughout the crisis, focusing on the concept of expansive, shared responsibility, between all parties. We will not address the content of Kochavi’s letter.”

According to reports, the health ministry is resisting efforts to have the crisis transferred from its authority.