Gantz says has 'real concern for Israel's security'

Gallant in reported message to Smotrich: ‘Army answers to defense minister’

New defense minister, who now shares his portfolio with Religious Zionism chief, is said to stress to associates that he will be calling the shots

Outgoing defense minister Benny Gantz (L) meets with his successor Yoav Gallant at the Defense Ministry offices in Tel Aviv, December 30, 2022 (Ariel Hermony/Defense Ministry)
Outgoing defense minister Benny Gantz (L) meets with his successor Yoav Gallant at the Defense Ministry offices in Tel Aviv, December 30, 2022 (Ariel Hermony/Defense Ministry)

New Defense Minister Yoav Gallant sought on Friday to solidify his position in his department — now under the authority of two cabinet ministers — with Channel 12 citing him as stressing to associates that the military “is subordinate to the defense minister.”

As part of Likud’s coalition deal with the far-right Religious Zionism, party leader and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was also named as a minister in the Defense Ministry, with authority over the military-run bodies handling civil affairs in the West Bank and coordination with the Palestinians.

Critics of the move have warned it could lead to dangerous disarray and a lack of consistency in policy. The intensely pro-settler Smotrich is expected to push for new settlement construction while cracking down on illegal Palestinian construction in areas of the West Bank fully controlled by Israel.

Channel 12 reported that Gallant said privately: “Every IDF officer is subordinate to the chief of staff, who is subordinate to the defense minister, and so it shall be.”

On his first day on the job Friday, Gallant met with outgoing minister Benny Gantz, thanked him for his service to Israel’s security and said the two would maintain contact.

Gallant’s office said the meeting was held in “a positive and professional atmosphere.”

Gantz, in a statement posted to Facebook, said he wished Gallant luck and “told him I hoped he’d take care of the IDF and continue to develop [its capabilities]. I told him I was very worried about the splitting up of the Defense Ministry and about the consequences of the actions of extremists in the government, which could have strategic ramifications.”

Gantz said he felt “real concern for Israel’s security, now reliant on the whims of experience-lacking extremists.”

Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich after coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem, December 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gantz added that the former government, now the opposition, “will be here to warn, to help with what we can and to continue to show the correct path, and to reach out to those who voted for the other side and who will now see the consequences of extremism.”

Gallant said he “listened attentively to [Gantz’s] views on the complex defense challenges facing Israel. Israel’s security is above any political dispute.”

Gallant also met with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi for their first work meeting at IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi meets with new Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, December 30, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Kohavi presented Gallant with a wide-ranging briefing on operational and intelligence matters. The two also discussed preparations for Kohavi’s end of term next month, and the ongoing process of acclimation for successor Herzi Halevi.

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