In November 1949, Yitzhak Rabin was appointed commander of the Battalion Commanders School. Many graduates of the first battalion commanders course were Palmach veterans whom Rabin, in order to preserve the spirit and values of the Palmach, had persuaded to stay on and take up command roles in the IDF. Rabin's success paved the way for his climb up the IDF ranks.
At the beginning of 1951 he was appointed head of the general staff operations department, where he proved himself to be an outstanding staff officer with a command of every detail of the many areas under his care and played a major role in shaping the IDF's defense doctrine.
As a candidate for senior command posts, in November 1952 he was sent to England to study at the British army's Staff College. Shortly after returning to Israel, he was appointed head of the IDF Training Branch by the new Chief of Staff, Moshe Dayan. As head of Training Branch, Rabin acted to integrate the knowledge he had accumulated in the Palmach and in the British army, set up the IDF's training infrastructure, was among the founders of IDF's Command and Staff College and set new standards of officer training.
In 1956, he was appointed Chief of Operations of Northern Command, where, inter alia, he was responsible for the fortification of the Israeli-controlled area of the demilitarized zones between Israel and Syria, on keeping the Sea of Galilee open to Israeli fishermen and protecting settlements coming under artillery fire. During the Sinai Campaign he remained in the North and prepared the forces under his command for the possibility of another front opening.
In 1958, after Haim Laskov was appointed Chief of Staff and Tzvi Tzur his deputy, Rabin felt that his promotion had been stopped in its tracks and planned finally to take a study leave. But that was not to be. In April 1959 the names of units called up to take part in a military drill were mistakenly broadcast on public radio. The broadcast caused panic among the Israeli public and led to emergency call-ups by the Egyptian and Syrian militaries. In the wake of the fiasco, which was dubbed the "Night of the Ducks" the head of Operations Branch was ousted and Rabin was appointed in his place.
As head of Operations Branch, Rabin worked on formulating an overall IDF defense doctrine adapted to developments in the Middle East arena, and to technological developments, while expanding the sources of the IDF's procurement and purchasing of advanced weapons systems. Rabin also introduced cross-disciplinary military exercises. He was involved in all aspects of routine security: On the Northern front, in the water wars against the Syrians; on the Southern front, against offensive initiatives by the Egyptian army.
As part of Rabin's drive for fast-track modernization of the IDF, the computer department was set up during his tenure as head of Operations Branch and the IDF got its first computer. During this period, Rabin also promoted the IDF's relations with militaries in Third World countries such as Ethiopia, Congo and Iran.
In January 1961, following Tzvi Tzur’s appointment as Chief of Staff, Rabin was named Deputy Chief of Staff in parallel to his position as head of Operations Branch. The appointment reflected his senior standing in the defense establishment and marked him as a candidate for the next Chief of Staff.
In June, 1963 Levi Eshkol was elected Prime Minister and in December that year the cabinet approved Rabin's appointment as Chief of Staff.