In first, Druze officer to lead Golani Brigade

Col. Ghassan Alian of Shfaram, the brigade’s deputy commander, tapped to steer one of the IDF’s most iconic units

Ghassan Alian is seen during a patrol near the West Bank city of Jenin on July 30, 2013. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Ghassan Alian is seen during a patrol near the West Bank city of Jenin on July 30, 2013. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

One of the IDF’s most storied and well-known brigades will soon have its first non-Jewish commander.

Colonel Ghassan Alian, the Golani Brigade’s current deputy commander, has been tapped by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz to lead the brigade, the IDF announced on Thursday.

Alian, a Druze career IDF officer from the Galilee town of Shfaram, previously commanded the Menashe District Brigade near Jenin in the West Bank. As deputy head of Golani, he served as a senior operational commander on the volatile Israeli-Syrian border.

Israel’s 120,000 Arabic-speaking Druze citizens, who belong to a religious sect founded in the 11th century when it split off of Shi’ite Islam, are one of only a few Arabic-speaking minorities who choose to be drafted into the IDF alongside the Jewish majority.

The Golani Brigade, formed in 1948, fought with distinction in all of Israel’s wars, with its officers and battalions repeatedly receiving Israel’s highest military honors. Two previous Golani commanders, Gabi Ashkenazi and Mordechai “Motta” Gur, rose to become IDF chiefs of staff.

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett praised the selection of Alian on Thursday, calling him “a brother.” Bennett added that he and Alian had gone through their officer training together, and said Alian’s appointment was “an opportunity for us all to remember how the Druze community contributes to the State of Israel [by serving] in IDF combat units.”

“Ghassan, we are sure you will bring pride to Golani, and that you will protect the State of Israel,” Bennett said.

The appointment of Alian must be approved by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

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