The government on Sunday unanimously approved the appointment of Gabi Asheknazi as the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff.
"I have no doubt that Gabi Ashkenazi will lead the IDF to accomplishments," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
said ahead of the government vote.
Olmert said at the start of the cabinet meeting that "Gabi is an esteemed commander and leader with an impressive history in the IDF for many years.
"I have no doubt that he will lead the IDF to deal with everything it has to deal with, to complete fitness and to essential accomplishments for the security of the State of Israel."
"I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate him in advance, before the approval," the prime minister added.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz
said that the new army chief's term would last four years instead of three in order to avoid a public discourse over the term's length, as has happened in the past.
"Four years are a suitable period of time for the chief of staff to leave his impression on the IDF," Peretz said as he announced his decision.
Cabinet meeting (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)
Immediately after the government voted, Peretz called the designated army chief and told him, "The Israeli government unanimously agreed that you are the right person to lead the IDF to face the future threats on Israel in the next four years."
Ashkenazi replied, "I feel a heavy responsibility and hope to justify the government and the defense minister's trust in me."
Ashkenazi will officially be appointed in the middle of the month. The ceremony in which he will replace Dan Halutz
is scheduled to take place on February 14.
Ashkenazi, 53, served most of his military career in the Northern Command but he fought with Southern Command soldiers in his early days.
In 1972, he joined the Golani Brigade and fought in the Yom Kippur war a year later. He also took part in Entebbe operation and was injured in the Litani operation in Lebanon.
By 1980, he was commanding a Golani battalion and during the first Lebanon war he was the deputy commander of the Golani Brigade.
He became popular among combat soldiers during his tenure as Golani commander between 1986 and 1988, after which he served as Northern Command intelligence chief. In the early 1990s he was appointed commander of the Northern Command armored brigade.
From 1992 to 1994 he headed civil the IDF's administration operations in southern Lebanon and worked closely with South Lebanon Army officers. He then served for four years as the Head of Operations at the General Staff. In the summer of 1998 he was appointed as Northern Command Chief.
In 2002 he was appointed deputy chief of staff and resigned two years later when he lost to Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz who was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 's choice for chief of staff.
He officially retired from the IDF in May 2005, and was appointed director-general of the Ministry of Defense.