Major General Yoav Galant, expected to be named the 20th IDF Chief of Staff, will be the first to have come up through the ranks of the navy. Though his command style is widely respected, his candidacy is mired in controversy because of tensions with the current chief, as well as Galant’s connections to politicians and businesspeople.Galant, 51, joined the navy commandos in 1977 and held a series of command positions in the elite Shayetet 13 unit. During that period he managed to spend two years on leave from the army, traveling to Alaska and worked as a lumberjack. On his return to the IDF, he completed naval officer training and served as second in comman of a missile boat. Afterwards, he returned to the Shayetet, was appointed commander of a company and promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Galant was one of the first officers of the Shayetet to switch to the army when in 1994 he was appointed commander of the Jenin Brigade. He returned to the navy, this time as commander of the Shayetet. After three years in that role, he switched back, once and for all, to the land forces. Promoted brigadier general, he was appointed commander of the Gaza Division, a position he held until 1999. Later, Galant was retrained in the armored division, serving as commander of a reserve unit and overall head of ground forces.
In 2002, he was promoted major-general and assigned the role of army secretary to prime minister Ariel Sharon. After three years in that post, in 2005, he was appointed head of the IDF’s Southern Command. The five-year period he served there is considered unusually long, and his wait for promotion is widely attributed to his tense relationship with current Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who inherited Galant from his predecessor Dan Halutz.
Last year, Ashkenazi vehemently opposed Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s move to appoint Galant as Deputy Chief of Staff. However, Galant remained in the running to replace Ashkenzai after Barak assured him his chances not be affected by the eventual appointment Benny Gantz as deputy chief instead.
Galant was a major player in the planning and execution of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza a year and a half ago. Sources close to him have claimed that Chief of Staff Ashkenazi prevented Galant from receiving proper credit for his role in the operation.
Galant’s candidacy for chief of staff was mired in controversy. While his supporters emphasize his extensive operational experience, his planning ability and his unique command style, detractors point out connections with politicians and businesspeople, and his relative inexperience in commanding land-based forces.
Galant is expected to replace Ashkenazi in mid-February 2011, but in the coming days he will already play a part discussions over a round of senior appointments in the IDF.