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Benjamin "Benny" Gantz

(1959 - )

Benjamin "Benny" Gantz is a career soldier and officer in the Israel Defense Forces. He is currently the IDF Chief of General Staff.

Gantz (born June 9, 1959) was born in Kfar Ahim, a small village in the southern part of the country, and at the age of eighteen was drafted into the IDF and accepted as a soldier in the Paratroopers unit of the infantry corps. In 1979, Gantz completed officer's training school and began an illustrious career in which he would command some of the IDF's most elite units all the way to being the Chief of Staff.

Among his command postings include: Shaldag Air Force Commando Unit (1989-1992); Paratroopers Brigade (1995-1997); Judea & Samaria Regional Division (2000-2002); Ground Forces Commander (2005-2007); and, Military Attache in the United States (2007-2009).

Asides from his military exploits, Gantz also has completed numerous academic degrees during his service. He is a graduate of the IDF Command and Headquarters College and the National Security College. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in History from Tel Aviv University, a Master's Degree in Political Science from the University of Haifa, and an additional Master's Degree in National Resources Management from the National Defense University in the United States.

On February 13, 2011, Gantz was unanimously approved by the Knesset to become Israel's 20th Chief of General Staff and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Gantz was an "excellent officer and experienced commander and had rich operational and logistical experience, with all the attributes needed to be a successful army commander."

Since assuming the role of Chief of Staff, Gantz has been involved in a number of historic moments for the IDF and Israel. In May 2011, Gantz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the appointment of Orna Barbivai to the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, making her the first woman Major General in IDF history. In October 2011, Gantz voiced his approval and was part of the decision to exchange Palestinian prisoners for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. When Shalit returned alive to Israel after more than five years in Hamas captivity it marked the first time that an Israeli prisoner-of-war or kidnapped soldier had returned living in almost three decades.  Gantz also led the IDF in Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 in an effort to destroy Hamas' rocket launching capability.

In February 2012, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, General Martin Dempsey, awarded Gantz the Legion of Merit award on behalf of the President of the United States. The “Legion of Merit” is a military award awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding activities and is given both to U.S. military personnel and to international army and government officials. A letter attached to the award, signed by Dempsey and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, stated that it was awarded to Gantz for his outstanding and noteworthy command and for his military service.

Sources: IDF Blog; Israel Defense Forces, IDF Spokesperson, Wikipedia