(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, currently the military attachÃ© in the US, will be the next deputy chief of General Staff, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Friday.
The announcement, which came after weeks of deliberations, is the first step toward a major round of appointments within the General Staff. Gantz will replace Maj.-Gen Dan Harel, who also served as military attachÃ© in Washington before taking up his current post.
Two other contenders for IDF No. 2 were OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant. They will remain in their positions for another year, although there is a possibility that Galant will be appointed head of the Ground Forces Command.
Galant, who commanded Operation Cast Lead in January, has told close associates that he would consider retiring from the IDF if he were not appointed the deputy chief of staff. Ashkenazi, who reportedly has a difficult relationship with Galant, preferred Eizenkot for the post.
Gantz, IDF sources said over the weekend, was likely a compromise between Ashkenazi and Barak, who supported Galant's candidacy. The defense minister's approval is required for General Staff appointments.
The IDF said that all three men were offered the opportunity to submit their candidacy to replace Ashkenazi as chief of staff in 2011, when his four-year term will come to an end.
Barak and Ashkenazi also decided that Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of Military Intelligence, will remain in his post for a fifth year.
As a division commander in the Northern Command in 2000, Gantz, 50, spearheaded the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon. He later served as head of the Northern Command, and was one of the youngest officers to receive the rank of major-general. He also commanded the Judea and Samaria Brigade, and during the Second Lebanon War served as head of the Ground Forces Command.
Gantz has earned a number of academic degrees during his military service. In the IDF, he graduated from the Command and Staff College as well as the National Defense College. He also has an M.A. in national resource management from the US National Defense University, as well as a master's degree in political science from the University of Haifa.