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Amir Eshel
Eshel at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Commander of the Israeli Air Force
Assumed office
10 May 2012
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Chief Benny Gantz
Preceded by Ido Nehoshtan
Personal details
Born 1959
Jaffa, Israel
Alma mater Auburn University
University of Haifa
Military service
Allegiance  Israel
Service/branch  Israeli Air Force
Years of service 1977-present
Rank IAF aluf.svg Major General
Commands 201 Squadron
Ramon Airbase
Tel Nof Airbase
IAF Air Group
IAF Chief of Staff
IDF Planning Directorate
Israeli Air Force
Battles/wars 1982 Lebanon War
2006 Lebanon War
2008-2009 Gaza War
2012 Operation Pillar of Defense

Aluf Amir Eshel (born 1959) is a Pilot Officer in the Israel Defense Forces and current Commander in Chief of the Israeli Air Force. A Major-General since 2008, Eshel is a former head of the IDF Planning Directorate. He succeeded Ido Nehoshtan as Commander in Chief of the Israeli Air Force on May 10, 2012.


Born in 1959, Eshel was drafted into the IDF in 1977. After graduating from the IAF Flight Academy as a fighter pilot in 1979, Eshel flew the A-4 Skyhawk, first out of Etzion and then from Ramon. He also flew the Skyhawk during the 1982 Lebanon War. After serving with the flight academy as a combat instructor, Eshel went on to fly the F-16 out of Ramat David Airbase. Between 1993 and 1995 Eshel commanded 201 Squadron at Tel Nof.[1][2] Flying the Kurnass 2000 variant of the F-4 Phantom II, Eshel led the squadron during Operation Grapes of Wrath. Between 1997 and 1999 Eshel headed the IAF's Operations Department.[1]

In 1999 Eshel was assigned command of Ramon Airbase. On December 16, 1999, while ferrying an AH-64 Apache from Ramon to northern Israel, Eshel carried out a routine weapons systems check on the supposedly unarmed helicopter, accidentally firing an AGM-114 Hellfire which narrowly missed a group of IAF reserve soldiers nearby. The incident, for which he fined himself, was written up in his record, but did not prevent further promotion.[3] In 1999 Eshel was assigned command of Tel Nof.[1]

Eshel, the son of Holocaust survivors, in September 2003 led a formation of three IAF F-15 Eagles on a fly-over of the Auschwitz death camp. As it flew above the camp, Eshel broadcast a message to an IDF ceremony taking place below:

We pilots of the Air Force, flying in the skies above the camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims and shoulder their silent cries, salute their courage and promise to be the shield of the Jewish people and its nation Israel.[4]

Eshel later explained that "We're talking about a personal dream of 15 years ... This is the most significant expression of the rebirth of this nation. As the IAF, we are the most concrete expression of the might of the Jewish people and there's no one better than us to express it".[5] The Israeli delegation had been in Poland on the occasion of the Polish Air Force's 85th anniversary and had participated in the Radom Air Show.[6][7]

In 2004 Eshel became head of the IAF's Air Group, commanding all operational assets and in January 2006 was appointed IAF Chief of Staff, a role he filled during the 2006 Lebanon War.[1] Eshel was subsequently credited with the improvements to air-ground integration implemented after the war.[8]

On March 27, 2008, he was promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed head of the IDF's Planning Directorate. He replaced Ido Nehoshtan, which had just been appointed Commander in Chief of the IAF.[9] On February 5, 2012, Eshel was announced as Nehoshtan's successor as Commander in Chief of the Israeli Air Force, when the latter completed his tenure in May 2012.[10][11] The other candidates were the Military Secretary to the Prime Minister, Maj. Gen. Yohanan Locker, and IAF Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Nimrod Shefer.[6][12][13]

Eshel is married and a father of 3. He holds a degree in economics from Auburn University, Alabama, and a degree in political science from the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Brig. Gen. Amir Eshel: the New Head of the Planning Branch". Israel Defence Forces. February 27, 2008. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  2. Tal, Shay (June 26, 2008). "לא סתם "אחת"" (in Hebrew). Israeli Air Force Magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  3. Ossenheim, Omri (January 13, 2006). "ידידותי למשתבש" (in Hebrew). Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  4. Katz, Yaakov. "Planning ahead". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  5. Valdan, Asaf (April 2004). "Years Later and Nothing’s Been Erased". Israeli Air Force Magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harel, Amos (February 3, 2012). "Feet on the ground, head in the sky". Ha'aretz. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  7. Shreeve, Mike (2003). "Pole Position". Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  8. Lambeth, Benjamin S. (2011). Air Operations in Israel's War Against Hezbollah. Rand Corporation. ISBN 978-0-8330-5841-6. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  9. "Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel: Commander of the Planning Branch". Israel Defence Forces. March 27, 2008. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  10. Harel, Amos; Cohen, Gilli (February 5, 2012). "Amir Eshel appointed as next Israel Air Force chief". Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  11. "מפקד חיל-האוויר הבא: האלוף אשל". Israeli Air Force. February 4, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  12. Limor, Yoav (January 26, 2012). "Amir Eshel likely to be appointed new IAF commander". Israel Hayom. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  13. Harel, Amos (January 24, 2012). "Iran will not appoint next Israel Air Force chief". Ha'aretz. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 

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