IDF Appoints Its First Female Major General

Orna Barbivay, currently chief of staff of the Personnel Directorate; will replace Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir as head the General Staff's Personnel Directorate.

Orna Barbivay will become the Israel Defense Forces' first female major general, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz decided yesterday. She will head the General Staff's Personnel Directorate.

Barak and Gantz also announced two other new appointments yesterday, as part of the first round of General Staff appointments since Gantz took office in February. Maj. Gen. Yair Golan will be the new GOC Northern Command, while Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg will be promoted to major general and replace Golan as head of the Home Front Command.

Barbivay has spent her entire career as an adjutant officer or in human resources. She is currently chief of staff of the Personnel Directorate. She will replace Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, who is retiring from the IDF.

Her appointment was preceded by lengthy deliberations between the defense minister and the chief of staff. Barak was particularly keen to announce the appointment of the first female major general during his tenure.

MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima ), the leader of the opposition, welcomed the appointment last night. "There is no rank that is too big for a woman's shoulders," she said. "I have no doubt that Maj. Gen. Barbivay was appointed because of her skill, but her appointment certainly sends a clear and appropriate message to Israeli society, men and women alike."

But Livni directed her praise specifically to the chief of staff rather than Barak, her political rival.

The decision to appoint Golan in place of Gadi Eizenkot as GOC Northern Command had been expected for more than a year. Golan, 49, is one of the leading officers of his class in the IDF, so the decision to charge him with what is perceived as Israel's most difficult front was a natural one.

Golan spent most of his military career in the Paratroops Brigade. He commanded a brigade in southern Lebanon in the 1990s and was even injured in an incident with Hezbollah at that time. Later, as commander of the Nahal Brigade, he stood out as one of the officers who led the IDF's switch to the offensive during the second intifada, culminating in Operation Defensive Shield in March 2002. He also commanded Division 91 on the northern border and served as commander of the IDF forces in the West Bank.

As GOC Home Front Command during the past three and a half years, he devoted much energy and effort to improving preparedness against enemy missile and rocket strikes on Israel.

Eizenkot will begin a study sabbatical, after which he is expected to return as deputy chief of staff in place of Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh.

The appointment of Eisenberg, in contrast, was a surprise. The 48-year-old spent most of his career in the special forces, then commanded the Givati Brigade during the second intifada and led many operations in the Gaza Strip prior to the disengagement. However, his performance in command of an elite reservist unit during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was harshly criticized.