Benny Gantz appointed head of Israeli military

The Israeli cabinet unanimously approved the appointment of Maj Gen Benny Gantz as the next chief of the armed forces, ending months of infighting for the post among top generals.

Jerusalem: The Israeli cabinet on Sunday
unanimously approved the appointment of Maj Gen Benny Gantz as
the next chief of the armed forces, ending months of
infighting for the post among top generals.

The appointment of Maj Gen Gantz comes at a time when
the region, engrossed in a strong political turmoil, faces one
of its worst instability in decades.

"Maj Gen Benny Gantz is an outstanding officer and an
experienced commander," Israel`s Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu told his ministers.

"His experience is vast both in terms of operation and
organisation. He is endowed with all of the qualities needed
to be a wonderful commander for the Israel Defence Forces
(IDF)," Netanyahu added.

The Israeli army will hold its official farewell
ceremony for its outgoing Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi,
today evening to be attended by President Shimon Peres,
cabinet ministers and senior IDF officials, but it is not yet
clear whether Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who has been
embroiled for months in conflicts with Ashkenazi, plans to

Gantz`s appointment ended months of infighting that
brought to the fore ego clashes in the top echelons of
Israel`s defence and politcal establishment.

Barak during the recent weeks looked hell-bent on
preventing an extension for Ashkenazi in the position, and
pushed through with Gantz`s elevation to the post after his
efforts to put a temporary Chief of Staff to allow proper
screening of the next army head was scuttled by strong
political opposition by ministers in his cabinet and
opposition parliamentarians.

Gantz`s appointment was authorised last Thursday by
the Turkel Committee for senior public appointments and the
approval by the cabinet comes a day before he officially takes
over the post.

The official transition ceremony between Ashkenazi and
Gantz will be held tomorrow morning at the Prime Minister`s
office in Jerusalem.

The farewell ceremony for the outgoing Chief of Staff
will be held at Tel Aviv University.

Barak was scheduled to deliver a speech at the
ceremony, but continuing tensions between him and Ashkenazi
have raised doubts that he will participate.

In television interviews about ten days ago, Barak
referred to "ethical, normative and professional problems"
plaguing Ashkenazi`s performance as chief of staff, but
refused to elaborate, raising eyebrows over their

Casting a dark cloud over Ashkenazi`s departure is the
publication this weekend of a new book, written by journalists
Dan Margalit and Ronen Bergman, about the so-called Harpaz
affair, in which a document was forged in order to influence
the appointment of the IDF chief of staff and to hurt Maj Gen
Yoav Galant`s chances of being selected.

The new book castigates Ashkenazi for his apparent
involvement in the affair and analyses his relationship with
Boaz Harpaz, who forged the document, as well as the
procedures connected to Galant`s appointment as chief of staff
before it was nullified.

The IDF spokesperson refused to comment on the book or
to respond to questions posed by its authors, calling it
"libelous and biased, aimed at hurting the chief of staff on
the eve of his departure from the IDF," local media reported.

Galant managed to get selected for the position
despite the affair but had to quit even before assuming charge
over allegations that he acquired public land illegally close
to his home.

The incoming Chief of Staff awaits major challenges in
the wake of a sweeping political change undergoing in the
region, especially the possibility of an uneasy border with
Egypt where long term ally Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power
on Friday.