Gallant taps former Likud MK Steinitz to serve as chairman of defense giant Rafael

Veteran politician served in Knesset for 23 years, including 12 in high-level security cabinet; will replace Uzi Landau once appointment is approved by Finance Ministry unit

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz attends the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Flash90)
Then-energy minister Yuval Steinitz attends a weekly government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday appointed ex-Likud MK Yuval Steinitz as the chairman of the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems arms firm, his office said.

Steinitz is to replace the current chair, Uzi Landau, who has served in the position since 2017.

Steinitz’s appointment still requires the approval of the Government Companies Authority, a Finance Ministry unit in charge of monitoring state-owned companies.

Steinitz, 64, served as a minister and Knesset member for 23 years, including 12 in the high-level security cabinet. He announced he was quitting politics last July.

In addition to serving as finance, energy, strategic affairs, intelligence and international relations minister in periods between 2009 and 2021, Steinitz chaired the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee from 2003 to 2006.

“Gallant thanked outgoing chairman Uzi Landau for his work in advancing and developing advanced combat systems and his contribution to the security of the State of Israel,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

File: An Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, on August 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Rafael is considered one of Israel’s premier military contractors, helping develop some of the country’s leading weapons systems, including the Iron Dome missile defense system and the precision-guided Spike missile.

It is also currently developing a high-powered laser interception system, dubbed Iron Beam, which has been hailed as a potential “game-changer” in the battle against projectile attacks.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett hailed the “on the mark” appointment of Steinitz in a post on Twitter. “Steinitz combines a deep understanding of security strategy with creativity, integrity, and wisdom,” he said.

“It is especially important to speed up the [development of the] laser interception system that we advanced, which will bring a real revolution in air defense, and will turn Israel into a world leader,” Bennett added.

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