IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz
approved on Thursday the appointment of Brigadier General Nitzan Alon as the next GOC Central Command.
Alon, who until two months ago served as commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, will be promoted to the rank of major general. He is expected to replace current Central Command chief Major-General Avi Mizrahi in early 2012.
During his tenure as head of the Judea and Samaria Division, Alon was frequently criticized by settler
leaders in the West Bank, who claimed he had treated the settlers unfairly.
Tensions between the settlers and Alon peaked in July when a group of youths attacked
him at the Tapuach Junction. The youths surrounded Alon's vehicle, kicked it and called the officer a "traitor."
Alon's wife is a known left-wing activist.
During a ceremony in October which officially ended his term as Judea and Samaria Division commander, Alon voiced disapproval of the far Right, saying that efforts must be made to reign in the "growing extremist margins of the Israeli
"Even now the extremist minority is capable of intensifying the operations that we call 'price tag,' but in effect amount to terrorism," Alon warned, adding that these hostile acts must be stopped.
Israel said on Thursday it was unifying its special forces under one command, a move experts say could help Israel strike countries like Iran, whose nuclear program the Jewish state deems a threat to its existence.
Gantz appointed Maj.-Gen. (res.) Shai Avital as the head of a new command – the Depth Corps - which will supervise over special operations at times of war.
"The primary task of the Corps will be to extend joint IDF (Israel Defence Force) operations into the strategic depth," said a statement from the military.
It should be noted that the new command is being set up amid growing calls for an Israeli attack on Iran's
Citing interviews with senior Israeli officers, American journal Defense News said the Corps commandos would be able to operate "far from Israel's borders" in the "third circle" - a term that generally applies to the Gulf and the Horn of Africa.
Israeli media predicted that the Depth Corps might operate inside Iran, which a UN nuclear watchdog report last month said appeared to be working on designing a nuclear weapon.
That finding has ratcheted up tension between Iran and Western powers and Israel. Diplomatic sources said on Wednesday Iran could soon begin sensitive atomic activities in an underground facility deep inside a mountain.
Iran, which denies seeking the bomb, has lost several nuclear scientists and military brass to assassinations, suspected defections and explosions, feeding speculation that Israel and Western allies are already waging sabotage campaigns.
Elite ground, air and naval units would all retain their unique capabilities, Defense News reported, but the new structure would encourage them to more closely collaborate in mission planning.
The IDF's most prestigious unit, Sayeret Matkal, counts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu among its veterans and is famed for carrying out the 1976 rescue of Israeli airline passengers hijacked on an Air France plane and flown to Uganda.
Also Thursday, the IDF chief authorized the promotion of Brig. Gen. Noam Tibon to the rank of major general. He will be appointed head of the Northern Command Corps, replacing Maj. Gen. Yishai Bar.
Reuters contributed to the report