Reports detail ministerial brawling over army promotions at security cabinet meet

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 4, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 4, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Reports in Hebrew media shine a light on angry arguments that broke out during a security cabinet meeting last night between Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over the army’s decision to implement a round of promotions.

According to Ynet, Gallant, a former senior general, took Smotrich to task for publicly attacking IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and his staff over the failure to prevent the October 7 Hamas massacre, accusing the minister of trying to turn the army into a politicized force.

“You are harming Israel and undermining the defense system for political reasons only. This is really bad, especially during war,” Gallant is quoted scolding Smotrich. “I won’t let anybody turn the army into a militia at the service of one actor or another.”

According to the report, ministers Avi Dichter and Benny Gantz, former Shin Bet and IDF heads respectively, also flogged Smotrich, with the latter accusing him of “delegitimizing the army.”

It adds that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed Halevi and said nobody is allowed to meddle in the appointment process.

Kan reports that Smotrich continued his attacks on Halevi during the meeting, declaring that “the IDF and its head failed not only tactically and operationally, but conceptually.”

He added that only the next chief of staff should be allowed to promote people. “This chief of staff failed and so only has backing to deploy force” in the ongoing war against Hamas.

Channel 12 news reports that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir sparred at the meeting with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, demanding to know why she said police chief Kobi Shabtai couldn’t promote people, but Halevi could.

After Baharav-Miara told him she would discuss it with him in a more appropriate forum, Ben Gvir continued pushing, throwing out oblique accusations of racism and elitism.

“It sure is for here. Let’s get into it. Why do you intervene for the police commissioner but not the IDF chief and Shin Bet head? Because he is Shabtai? Because he was not in the Sayeret Matkal [commando unit]? Because he didn’t come from the right place? You don’t want him to promote people because you can’t say that I can’t promote people. You have no reason, so you search for one.”

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