JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak chose OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant to succeed IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in six months.
"Galant is an experienced officer with varied operational experience, leadership skills and the ability to lead the IDF in the challenges it and the State of Israel face," Barak said.
Ashkenazi, whose tenure ends in February, called Galant to congratulate him and also spoke with the other generals who were under consideration for the position, asking everyone to press ahead for the country's welfare.
While Barak's choice of Galant was welcomed, his timing was widely criticized by many in the government.
Barak announced his decision despite two significant factors: 1) Ashkenazi has six more months to serve, and 2) an investigation into a forged press release meant to defame Galant has not been completed.
Strategic Affairs Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Barak's announcement was premature.
"At the present moment, with all that is occurring around the appointment in which much has yet to be revealed, I advise not to rush in bringing any decision to the cabinet for approval," Ya'alon said.
Kadima MKs Nahman Shai and Yoel Hasson praised Galant, but criticized Barak's timing.
Shai said Barak was "needlessly rushing," while Hasson said the defense minister had appointed "an outstanding commander" but had "failed in the process of the appointment."
Galant, 51, the IDF's first chief of staff to come from the Navy, is highly respected among his peers for his broad field and combat experience.
The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.