Yitzhak Pundak, a career military man, civil servant and diplomat, has been promoted one last time, to the rank of major general, at the ripe young age of 100.
Pundak served as a battalion commander of the Givati Brigade during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, was the founder and first commander of the IDF’s Nahal unit, and commanded the IDF Armored Corps in the 1950s.
In 1954, then-IDF chief of the General Staff, Moshe Dayan, reportedly promised Pundak that, after a year as the head of the Armored Corps, he would be promoted to major general, one rank below that of lieutenant general — the rank reserved for the chief of general staff.
A few months afterwards, Dayan told Pundak that the promotion had been blocked by defense minister Pinhas Lavon, who, according to Dayan’s memoirs, froze all promotions to major general — with the exception of future chief of staff, defense minister and prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
When Lavon resigned and was replaced by David Ben-Gurion, the promotion still never materialized. But now, 60 years after it was first promised, it has.
On Saturday, two months after Pundak’s 100th birthday, he was informed that current Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz approved his promotion earlier this month, and that Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon has given his thumbs-up as well, according to Haaretz.
The ceremony will be held at the office of Gantz, who was born in 1959 — the same year Pundak retired from the IDF.
Pundak served as the administrator of the Arad Regional Council from 1962-1965, followed by one year as the head of the Arad local council. In 1965, he was appointed as Israel’s ambassador to Tanzania, and in the 1970s was the head of the Jewish Agency delegation to Argentina.
In 1971, Pundak briefly returned to the IDF, with the rank of brigadier general, when he accepted the appointment by Dayan, who was the defense minister at the time, to the post of governor for the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip.
During that period, he was often at odds with another future defense minister and prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who was then the head of the IDF’s Southern Command. Pundak retired for the last time from military service in 1973, months before the Yom Kippur War.
To hear him tell it, Pundak has spent almost six decades feeling cheated out of the rank that was rightfully his. He was quoted by Channel 2 as saying, “I waited 59 years for the rank that was stolen from me, and now I am finally receiving it.”
Pundak expressed a double measure of excitement. “My 100th birthday and being made major general — all within two months? You could say that this is a dream come true.”