Benjamin "Benny" Gantz (Hebrew: בנימין "בני" גנץ; born June 9, 1959) is an Israeli General and was the 20th Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (February 14, 2011 – February 16, 2015).
Gantz was born in Kfar Ahim, Israel in 1959. His mother is a Holocaust survivor, originally from Mezőkovácsháza, Hungary. Gantz was drafted into the IDF in 1977. He volunteered as a paratrooper in the Paratroopers Brigade, and in 1979 became an officer after completing Officer Candidate School. During his career Gantz has served in a number of roles, including: Commander of the Shaldag Unit in the Israeli Air Force, Commander of the 35th Paratroopers Brigade, Commander of the Reserves Division in the Northern Command, Commander of the Lebanon Liaison Unit, Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division in 2000, before becoming the Commander of the Israeli Northern Command in 2001, and as Israel's military attaché in the United States from 2005 until 2009 before becoming the Deputy Chief of the General Staff.
Gantz has received a number of degrees during his military 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.
Chief of Staff
Following the canceled appointment of previous nominee Aluf Yoav Galant, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on 5 February 2011 that he will be recommending to the government that Gantz be appointed the 20th Chief of the General Staff (after the pending approval by the Turkel Advisory Committee on Senior Appointments and a government vote).
On 13 February 2011, the Israeli government unanimously approved Gantz to be the next IDF chief of staff. According to the Jerusalem Post, 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."
On February 14, 2011 Gantz assumed command as the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
In his first year as Chief of the General Staff, Gantz appointed the IDF's first-ever female major-general, Orna Barbivai.
In July 2011 Gantz appointed a special committee to address a controversy that had developed concerning mention of the word Elohim, "God," in the military Yizkor prayer. The committee determined that a disputed passage should read Yizkor 'Am Yisrael, "May the Nation of Israel remember," and not Yizkor Elohim, "May God remember." Gantz upheld the committee's ruling.
Gantz has called on the IDF to be ready for a new ground invasion of Gaza.
Gantz commanded the IDF when it fought against Hamas and other Palestinian forces in Gaza in the campaigns Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge.
Building on public land allegations
A report in the Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom from March 2010 charged Gantz with illegally extending the perimeter of his yard by several feet to encompass a small plot of land that had been designated public property and subsequently building on it. "The Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Major General Benny Gantz, invaded a public land area adjacent to his home in Rosh HaAyin, illegally and without a permit and a license constructed a nice and wide deck on public land next to his house's yard, enclosed it with a pretty wooden fence – and broke the law." The report included photos of the alleged violations. Gantz admitted to the facts but claimed that the public land in question was not and could not be accessible for use by the public. Two months after town hall officials notified him of the violation, the deck was disassembled and removed.
In February 2011, following the government's decision to promote Gantz to Chief of the General Staff, Attorney Avi'ad Vissuli of the Forum for the Land of Israel submitted a formal objection to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and to Judge Ya'akov Turkel, demanding that the appointment be revoked. Vissuli compared the violations attributed to Gantz to the controversial property violations of Major General Yoav Galant.
Role in the death of Corporal Madhat Yusuf
The Second Intifada erupted while Gantz served as Commander of the Judea-Samaria Division. Corporal Madhat Yusuf, a nineteen-year-old Border Guard policeman, was stationed at the time at Joseph's Tomb in present-day Nablus. On 1 October 2000, an armed Palestinian group attacked the tomb, and Yusuf suffered a gunshot wound to the neck from a Palestinian sniper. Rather than send in Israeli rescue forces, Ehud Barak, who was Prime Minister and Minister of Defense at the time, instructed Chief of the General Staff Shaul Mofaz to arrange for the Palestinian Authority to evacuate Yusuf to safety. Despite agreeing to the arrangement, Palestinian security forces failed to arrive, and Yusuf bled to death after four hours.
Since the incident, relatives and friends of Corporal Yusuf have demanded that various individuals be held accountable for what they consider to have been a preventable tragedy. Early in February 2011, Yusuf's family told reporters they were considering filing a petition with the Supreme Court to challenge the planned appointment of Gantz to Chief of the General Staff.
The Turkel Committee charged with reviewing Gantz's qualifications vis-a-vis his planned appointment to Chief of the General Staff determined that Gantz "was not the most senior ranking commander at the scene, and there were operational as well as political considerations involved in the incident for which he was not responsible."