A woman has been promoted to the rank of Major General for the first time in the history of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Brigadier Orna Barbivay, 49, will assume her new rank when she takes over as commander of the IDF's Manpower Branch in a few weeks, replacing Major General Avi Zamir, who is leaving the IDF. She currently serves as the Branch's chief staff officer.
Barbivay, who is married with three children, enlisted in the army in 1981, joining the Adjutant Corps. She served in a variety of posts in the Corps, eventually commanding it, and also served as chief manpower officer in the Ground Corps Command.
The rank of major general is the second-highest in the IDF, and is the highest a soldier can reach unless appointed chief-of-staff, who is always the only serving officer with the rank of
Barbivay's promotion was welcomed by women legislators. Lawmaker Miri Regev, who held the rank of brigadier when she was chief IDF spokeswoman, said it created "an opening for further (similar) appointments in the IDF."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that "there is no rank too heavy for the shoulders of a woman." She lauded the decision, saying that it "sends a clear, correct message to society in Israel, both men and women."
Barbivay's promotion has been expected since last year, but the final decision was only made Thursday by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak's approval.
The announcement was one of a round of changes and new appointments within the ranks of the IDF. GOC Home Front Command, Major General Yair Golan, will be appointed GOC Northern Command. He will replace Major General Gadi Eizenkot, who is taking a year's leave to pursue academic studies. Following that, he is expected to be appointed Deputy Chief of Staff.
Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg will take the place of Golan as GOC Northern Command, and will also be promoted to the rank of Major General.
Eisenberg's appointment comes as a surprise in some quarters. He came under heavy criticism for his performance as commander of an elite division, "Fire Formation," during the Second Lebanon War, although his performance as commander during Operation Cast Lead was praised. Eisenberg faced stiff competition for the position from several other Brigadier Generals, some of whom were more senior than him.
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