Thursday, March 24, 2011

New IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz Assumes His Command

Israel's 20th IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, 51, has a long record of distinguished service in Israel's military establishment, Gantz began his military career in 1977, when he was drafted into the army and became part of the country's elite paratrooper brigade, after completing officers candidate school two years later. During his early years as a paratrooper, Gantz rose quickly in the ranks, and became a platoon leader and later a brigade commander.

Gantz has served in a number of prestige military positions, including Commander of the highly acclaimed Shaldag (Kingfisher) Air Force unit, Commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, Commander of the Reserves Division in the Northern Command, Commander of the Lebanon Liaison Unit; and Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division in 2000. His next military command position was Commander of the Northern Command, which he assumed in 2001. He was afterwards appointed to be the IDF's Military Attache to the US Armed Forces; which he held until his appointment as Deputy of Staff in 2009.

A true believer in the merits of higher education, Gantz took time off during his busy military career to attend both the IDF Command and Headquarters College and the National Security College, as well as Tel Aviv University, where he received a BA Degree in History. He also attended graduate schools, and received both an MA in Political Science from the University of Haifa, and another MA Degree in National Resource Management from the National Defense University in the USA.

Despite what might appear as having an illustrious military career, General Gantz's career has not been without some controversy. While serving as Commander of the Judea and Sameria Division on the West Bank Gantz was criticized after a border guard policeman guarding Joseph's Tomb, Corporal Madhat Yousef, was left to bleed to death after being wounded by a Palestinian sniper. Gantz was criticized for this action for not taking measures quickly enough to evacuate Corporal Yousef fast enough. Gantz was later exonerated by a military tribunal. Another incident involved Gantz building part of his home on disputed property. He later agreed to give up this land, and even dismantled structures he had built upon the disputed property.

On a whole, General Gantz's career has been very outstanding; and is considered by his military officer peers to be very qualified to assume the post for which he has now been chosen for. General Gantz takes over the COS position from Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, who became COS following the resignation of Gen. Dan Helutz in the aftermath of 2006 war against the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Ashkenazi succeeded in revamping the IDF, and turning it into a much better trained and organized military fighting force. During Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi' tenure as COS, the IDF was involved in both the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead "mini-war" in Gaza, and the more recent May 31, 2010 Mave Mamara or "flotilla" incident, in which the IDF's commando raid actions were recently absolved by the Trikul Commission.

All in all, General Gantz assumes his command over a much improved and better equipped IDF that now has to face the reality of an increasingly unstable Middle East. - Headlines