Lieutenant General Benny Gantz took over as Israel Defense Forces' 20th chief of staff on Monday morning, declaring that he was prepared to take upon himself the "important mission" of leading Israel's army through the challenges and developments facing the region.
The day of transition began with a ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, in which Gantz was promoted from his previous rank of major general. He officially assumed his new role in a military ceremony a few hours later at the Kirya defense compound in Tel Aviv, taking over from outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
After receiving his promotion, Gantz opened his acceptance speech by thanking Major General Yoav Galant, who had been the initial choice for the position, for his years of service in the army. Galant had been disqualified due to allegations against him regarding the seizure of public land near his home in Moshav Amikam.
Gantz also thanked Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the faith they had shown in him by selecting him for the position.
"It is with belief in my abilities and experience" that he was taking on the role of IDF chief, Gantz said.
To Ashkenazi, under whom he had served as deputy, Gantz declared: "You rehabilitated the IDF at a difficult time. You are handing me a determined, disciplined, professional and primed army. I swear to you that I will continue in your path."
Ashkenazi handed to Gantz what he called "the book of goal in Gaza" and warned his successor that nothing could prepare him for the task ahead.
In bidding farewell to the army, Ashkenazi told participants at the promotion ceremony that he was leaving his position with the knowledge that he had "done everything to help the IDF succeed and move forward."
During his years as chief of staff, the IDF "fortified Israel's walls of defense, that many on the outside believed had weakened."
To Gantz, Ashkenazi said: "I have no doubt that your ability will enable you to harness the soldiers the IDF. We all believe in you. Good luck."
The IDF said its own farewell to Ashkenazi on Sunday night at Tel Aviv University, in the presence of government officials and hundreds of senior officers past and present, hours after Netanyahu's cabinet unanimously approved Gantz for the position.
"Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz is an outstanding officer and an experienced commander," Netanyahu told ministers following the vote. "His experience is vast both in terms of operation and organization. He is endowed with all of the qualities needed to be a wonderful commander for the Israel Defense Forces."
"You are receiving the baton of command, and possess all of the attributes needed to be successful in the position," Netanyahu told Gantz during the ceremony on Sunday. "You must find your own special path, combining quiet determination, calmness and a pleasant approach to maintain the continuity and stability that are of so important in such a time of instability."
The 51-year-old veteran army man was chosen after months of controversy and debate surrounding the initial selection and subsequent disqualification of Galant for the position.
Gantz first enlisted in the IDF as a paratrooper in 1977 and graduated from officer school in 1979. He has since served in many major command capacities over the course of his 30-year military career.
After completing officers' school, Gantz returned to the Paratroopers Brigade, where he served as a platoon, company, and battalion commander. He assumed command of the Israel Air Force's elite Shaldag unit in 1989, where he served for three years before assuming the command of the Paratroopers Reserves Brigade.
In 1994, he was appointed to command the Judea Brigade in the Judea and Samaria Division, and a year later, he was promoted to commander of the Paratroopers Brigade.
Gantz took a leave of absence in 1997 to obtain a master's degree in national resources management from the National Defense University in the United States. Upon returning to active service in the IDF, he became commander of a reserve division in the Northern Command.
Gantz served as commander of the IDF's liaison unit in Lebanon during Israel's withdrawal in 1999 and was personally responsible for shutting the gate between the two countries.
In 2000, he was appointed commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, overseeing IDF forces in the West Bank during the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Two years later, he was appointed GOC Northern Command, one of the highest positions in the IDF.
In 2005, he became commander of the IDF Ground Forces, a position he held during the Second Lebanon War. The position did not place him in a decision-making capacity, and Gantz later remarked that he unsuccessfully advocated mobilization of reserves and a ground campaign at an early stage.
Gantz was next appointed as the IDF's military attache in the United States. Upon his return to Israel in 2009, he assumed the role of deputy chief of staff. He held that position until his recent retirement from the IDF, after being initially passed over for chief of staff.
In addition to the master's degree he received in the United States, Gantz holds a bachelor's degree in history from Tel Aviv University and a master's degree in political science from the University of Haifa.
IDF chiefs of staff: 1947-2011
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