Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz announced Thursday that they would appoint former Commander of Judea and Samaria, Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, to head Central Command. He will receive the rank of major general.
Alon ended his term as Judea and Samaria Commander two months ago, after a prolonged period of tension between himself and the Jewish residents of the Biblical heartland. Local leaders expressed pleasure with the fact that he was leaving the position and accused him of being a leftist with an attitude of appeasement toward the local Arabs.
Alon was commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit in 1998-2001 and later commanded an elite reservist brigade composed largely of paratroopers. In the Second Lebanon War he was in charge of a successful commando operation behind enemy lines in Ba'albek.
In October 2009 he was appointed Commander of Judea and Samaria. When he ended his two year term in this position he criticized nationalists and warned: "The IDF – along with the police and the Coordination and Liaison Administration – may have to undertake special missions that lack a wide national consensus, involving an escalating confrontation with radical fringes of Israeli society that are growing wider."
"Already," he added, "a radical minority, small in numbers but not in its influence, could cause a large scale escalation in the acts known as 'price tag', which in fact amount to terror."
Alon also told officers in June that soldiers who hail from the settlements need to be thoroughly vetted to make sure that they do not leak information about planned activities against settlements.
The appointment has been termed "a declaration of war" by nationalists.