Yoav Galant
Yoav Galant trying out the IDF's micro Tavor assault weapon in 2008. Photo by Roman Poretzky
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Major General Yoav Galant, the candidate to be the 20th Israel Defense Forces 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 his connections to politicians and businesspeople.

Galant, 51, joined the navy commandos in 1977 and held several command positions in the elite Shayetet 13 unit. During that period he spent two years on leave from the army, traveling to Alaska and working as a lumberjack. On his re turn to the IDF, he completed naval officer training and served as second in command of a missile boat. Afterward, 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 he was appointed commander of the Jenin Brigade in 1994. Afterward he returned to the navy, this time as commander of the Shayetet. After three years he switched back, once and for all, to the land forces. Promoted to 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 to major general and given the role of army secretary to prime minister Ariel Sharon, and in 2005, he was appointed head of the IDF's Southern Command.

He has served there for five years, which is considered an unusually long term, 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 Ashkenazi after Barak assured him his chances would not be affected by the eventual appointment of 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 Ashkenazi kept him from receiving proper credit for his role.

Galant is expected to replace Ashkenazi in mid-February 2011, but he will play a part in discussions over a round of senior IDF appointments in the coming days.