50 Influential Jews: Yoav Gallant - No. 9

The Defense Minister wants to focus on security issues. He may not be able to do so.

 Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

On March 23, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s deeply emotional speech singlehandedly halted the government’s judicial overhaul for four months, with the most significant pieces of it still uncertain.

No. 8: Ronald S. Lauder >>

No. 10: David Barnea >>

Full list >>

It seemed like a resounding “gut” moment, but from his perspective, he was the clear-eyed person acting based on a sober assessment of the facts instead of on populism.

Agree or disagree with his moves, Gallant has been one of the most dominant figures this past year, and if he is not fired a second time (he was already fired and unfired once), will continue to be the second or third most influential player in the government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and debatably, right on top of or below Justice Minister Yariv Levin.

Along with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, Gallant directed the successful operations against Gaza in May and against Jenin in July.

That March to July period was probably his least chaotic in office because negotiations between the government and the opposition over the judicial overhaul mostly allowed him to stay above the fray. He got to focus on his bread and butter – security issues. He hopes that a compromise or a longer delay on the judicial overhaul will be reached so that he can continue that focus.

If that happens, The Jerusalem Post has learned, he will make sure that Hezbollah’s outpost in the disputed Mount Dov area is removed. He is not making any promises that it will be gone during the winter rains or snow as some in the IDF Northern Command want, but he is unequivocal that the outpost will be removed at some point, even if significant force is necessary. In the meantime, he has no problem allowing the outpost to remain, since he does not view it as even remotely endangering Israeli security and would instead try to get it moved in a way that avoids war with Hezbollah.

Regarding Hezbollah, Gallant is very concerned about its massive rocket arsenal, including at least dozens of precision rockets that could likely penetrate Israel’s missile shield and strike large Israeli buildings in the event of war.

But he has publicly threatened to send Lebanon and Hezbollah “back into the Stone Age” if they dare to start a general war. He believes that Jerusalem still mostly has Beirut deterred and that its full rocket arsenal is closer to 100,000, since the 150,000 “rocket” number people toss out regarding Hezbollah includes smaller mortars.

In that vein, he has acted meticulously in responding to various actions by Hezbollah; and with his public statements, he tries to maintain deterrence and to avoid Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah mistakenly thinking that Israel is weakened enough by the judicial overhaul situation to be able to be defeated finally.

Gallant is similar in his calculating approach to handling Iran. On the one hand, he has continued to promote an aggressive “war between wars,” striking the weapons smuggling to Iranian proxies in Syria and elsewhere to limit the danger that the Islamic Republic and its lieutenants pose. He has also verbally sparred with Tehran over its efforts to inflame the Palestinians in the West Bank.

On the other hand, he has carefully avoided actions that could have drawn the Jewish state into a general war with the ayatollahs. In the event that he and Netanyahu overcome their differences over the judicial overhaul’s impact on the IDF, Gallant will continue to shape Israeli security policy on some of the most critical issues of this era.