Middle East
Israel appoints a new army chief
Defence minister chooses a general who led Gaza offensive for military's top job.
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2010 20:23 GMT
PM Netanyahu,pictured, said the appointment of Galant is "the right move" [AFP]

Israel has named a new army chief, choosing for the military's top job a general who led troops in the Gaza offensive less than two years ago.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister, announced the appointment of Major-General Yoav Galant as chief of staff on Sunday, a decision that followed the eruption of scandal over a leaked memo that appeared to spell out a scheme by Galant to smear his rivals for the job.

Police said the memo is fake, clearing the way for an appointment backed by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

"This is the right move and it is aimed at restoring proper functioning in the army's senior ranks," Netanyahu said in a statement.

"The situation demands a swift decision because uncertainty carries a high price."

The appointment of the successor to current army chief Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, due to step down in February, will be ratified by Israel's cabinet next week. 

'War of the generals'

Allegations that Galant had hired a publicist to smear a rival candidate for the post have dominated Israeli headlines, which focused on suspicions of back-stabbing in the military's senior ranks.

Ashkenazi has said no member of the general staff was involved in this "war of the generals".

Other leading candidates for the military's top job were General Benny Gantz, Ashkenazi's deputy, and Major General Gadi Eizenkot who heads the army's northern command. 

Galant, whose command covered the Gaza Strip, oversaw the December 2008-January 2009 war in Gaza which led to the death of at least 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

He is currently the army's commander for southern Israel.

It will be up to Galant to prepare the military for a possible strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, as Israel has said all options are on the table in preventing Iran from building atomic weapons.

Galant began his service in the navy before switching to the ground forces in the 1990s. Among his senior roles, he served as military attache to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Galant was born in November 1958 in the mixed Arab-Jewish neighbourhood of Jaffa.

He is married with three children and holds a degree in business and financial management.

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