During a handover ceremony at army headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday, outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz wished his successor Yoav Gallant (Likud) good luck in office and warned him against political interference in the army.
“Establish a high and solid wall of defense between military and political involvement in operational decisions and do not allow the defense establishment to fragment into sub-units subject to political interference and separated from the chain of command,” Gantz told his successor.
The outgoing minister cited military leader Aviv Kohavi’s recent concerns about growing political control of the military.
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Party leader and new finance minister Bezalel Smotrich was also named defense minister, with authority over military-run bodies that run civil affairs in the West Bank, according to a coalition deal between Likud and the far-right HaTzionut HaDatit party. Coordination with the Palestinians.
Under the terms of the contracts, Smotrich’s role as a minister in the Department of Defense allows him to appoint the civil-military coordinator of government activities in the territories, or the generals who head COGAT, whose office oversees many issues, and the Civil Administration. Subject to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval.
Until now, the Major General in charge of COGAT was appointed by the Minister of Defense on the recommendation of the IDF Chief of Staff, while the Brigadier General in charge of the Civil Administration was appointed by the Chief of Staff. IDF Major.
Smotrich has not yet made any decisions within his new powers at the Department of Defense.
Meanwhile, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who is in charge of the police, is reportedly planning to withdraw the border police unit from the West Bank and deploy 16 of its companies in southern Israel to fight crime. This unit is currently operationally subordinate to the army.
Under the coalition agreement between Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudite party and Netanyahu’s Likud party, the Border Police will then be completely separated from the Israel Police, and the gendarmerie will be placed under the direct control of a new Department of National Security. .
The army believes that Ben Gvir’s planned force move to the south of the country will severely damage its operations in the West Bank, forcing it to call in dozens of additional reserves to compensate for the loss of forces operating regularly. security in the region with the army.
In his speech on Sunday, Gallant said he would work to “strengthen” the military.
“The Israeli army is beyond dispute.
Later, according to Channel 13, Gallant told senior officers during a meeting with the IDF General Staff Forum: “I will not allow the chain of command to be broken. In the army, every officer has a commander, who is the chief of staff.”
But his office released statements different from the meeting and the chain of command issue remained unconfirmed.
During the handover ceremony, Gallant said: “I take on the role of Secretary of Defense because of my long-standing commitment to Israel’s security and deep appreciation of the importance of the mission. »
Gallant pledged to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to take tough measures against rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
“We will fight terrorism without compromise.
Gallant, a former high-ranking general who began his military career with the elite Shayetet 13 marine commando unit, is a highly respected military strategist.
He once contested to become IDF chief of staff, but had to step down after becoming embroiled in a scandal involving the encroachment of his home and garden on public land.
After his disqualification, the position was transferred to the resigned Defense Minister Gantz.
Gallant has not yet named a new executive director for the department. The current executive director Amir Eshel announced that he will resign from his position after the departure of Gantz. Eshel took office shortly after Gantz took over as head of the Defense Department in May 2020.