President Rivlin at farewell for Gadi Eizenkot
President Rivlin at farewell for Gadi Eizenkot Mark Neiman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday evening gave a farewell address to outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot as he concludes his service, in an emotional ceremony attended by senior political and military figures at the Kirya IDF base in Tel Aviv.

“People say that everyone in Israel has their own ‘Golani' soldier,” said the president. “You, Gadi, are everyone’s ‘Golani’ soldier. You grew up in Brigade No. 1, a byword for Israeli society, from recruit to brigade commander, and became the country’s no. 1 soldier.”

“Your roots are those of the strong tree that symbolizes Golani. ‘I am a Golanchik’, you are fond of saying. Your determination, your modesty, your daring, your strong sense of values. You stand up for your principles and your views, not only on the battlefield. If ever they decide to award the Israel Prize to the Golani Brigade, you will be one of the leading candidates to accept the prize on behalf of the brigade. It would be on behalf of you and of many other Golanchikim who created this special unit that has produced two Chiefs of Staff so far – you and Gabi Ashkenazi.”

The president continued, “We take leave of you today as IDF Chief of Staff, our military leader and defender of our walls. Over the four years of your term, you were everyone’s Chief of Staff - soldier, commander, statesman, modest, brave, responsible, a first rate strategist and a people person. Over the last four years there were no wars, but the IDF under your command never ceased fighting. It fought on all borders, in all sectors, without pause: in Gaza, in Judea and Samaria, in the Golan Heights, on the Lebanese border, against targets near and far.”

“You made the IDF an army where quality provides the breakthrough, now and to face future threats. You understood the advantages of force no less than the limitations of force. You articulated clearly the difference between the use of military force for the purposes of uncompromising defense and militarism that is a mask for aggression. You taught us strong, stable, responsible, quiet and considered use of military force. And, as we see in your ‘Gideon’ long-term plan, military thinking that is far-sighted and focused on the issues. You never, never caused panic. Every situation analysis, every evaluation from the opening assumptions until the final orders were brilliant and fascinating. With you, there is no such thing as shoddy work. Everything is checked and analyzed, done thoroughly and professionally.”

“Dear Gadi,” continued Rivlin, “alongside the military and professional issues, you also took a clear view on the most complex issues in society,” said the president. “You did not hesitate and were not afraid to deal with them, even when it resulted in criticism, on the same basis that the commander is responsible, and that responsibility carries a cost. You did so with dedication, and in the belief that the IDF must remain the people’s army, everyone’s army. An army whose doors are open and wide enough for the range of views and beliefs that make up Israeli society. The IDF that has secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox, Druze, Moslem, Christian, Circassian and others serving in it.”

“The IDF that treats its people equally, but not blindly. The IDF that swears allegiance to Israeli society and to the State of Israel. An army whose leadership, your leadership, makes it more ethical, more moral and more professional. You, who grew out of the brigades, understood that a people’s army is not just the army of those who excel and those who lead. A people’s army is also one for people who need support and help. The IDF of Havat HaShomer and Mechva Alon, bases where special populations are trained, the IDF that takes care of lone soldiers has well as the Commando Brigade, the special forces, the infantry, armor, artillery, intelligence, Navy, Air Force, cyber and the list goes on.”

President Rivlin called on Eizenkot to return to public life soon, saying, “When you were appointed, I said I was happy you were in charge. In the last four years, you have proved to me and to us that our hopes were not misplaced. You were the right person in the right place. Happy is the people that has you as one of its sons. I know that you prefer to be out of the limelight but nevertheless, I hope that we will see you in public roles again. The Israeli people needs people like you!”

In conclusion, the president spoke to Eizenkot’s wife, Hannah, to his children and young granddaughter and thanked them. “We all know, Hannah, that home was the thing that kept Gadi going above all else, that gave him strength, inspiration and patience. Thank you.”

President Rivlin congratulated the incoming Chief of Staff, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, wished him all success and said, “I want to wish you success, incoming Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi. The IDF is getting an excellent Chief of Staff. I am sure that you will succeed in steering the IDF through the challenges ahead with the same determination you have shown so far. You are amongst the best of our people, the best of our commanders. Your success is our success, and we trust you. The outgoing Chief of Staff is from Golani, and the incoming is from the paratroopers, but the spirit is the same spirit – of mission, of devotion, of obligation to continue to carry out the duty of defending the State of Israel and the Israeli people in the best way possible. I, like all Israelis, have faith in you. Good luck to you both, and bless you all.”