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Israel’s Former Top General Moshe Ya’alon Named Defense Minister

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Moshe Ya’alon, a kibbutz farmer who went on to become Israel’s top general, will be defense minister in the new Cabinet being assembled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a government official said.

Ya’alon, 62, previously served as Minister of Strategic Affairs and headed the army’s military intelligence division before his promotion to Chief of Staff in 2002. He was chosen by Netanyahu to succeed Ehud Barak, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the appointment will not be official until tomorrow.

“He’s a professional and he’s quite rational, though his close relationship with the settler movement could lead to some tension on the Palestinian issue,” Shlomo Brom, a retired general and senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said in a telephone interview.

One of Ya’alon’s first challenges will be addressing proposed cuts to the defense budget. The Bank of Israel’s monetary committee says the government will have to trim spending and raise taxes to meet the targets for 2013 and 2014.

Brom said Ya’alon’s view of Iran is similar to that of Netanyahu, who has been pushing the U.S. to threaten military action if the Iranian nuclear program is not stopped.

Ya’alon, widely known by his nickname Bogie, was a dairy farmer at Kibbutz Grofit in Israel’s southern desert region before becoming a career soldier. Later his opposition to the government’s decision to remove Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 led to his three-year term as Chief of Staff not receiving the customary extension to a fourth year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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