The former commander of the Israeli air force, Major-General Dan Halutz, has been appointed to the post of army chief of staff. Halutz, 56, will replace Lieutenant-General Moshe Ya’alon after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided not to extend his term. The dismissal was widely criticized by parliamentarians who believe it’s the wrong time for a change with Israel facing the huge challenge of the upcoming pullout from Gaza. But Mofaz and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wanted Ya’alon out because he had publicly criticized government policy as being too harsh vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Halutz is the first air force commander to become chief of staff.