Gallant still Israel's acting defense minister: Who is poised to replace him?

The Jerusalem Post understood that there really still was no clarity between Gallant and Netanyahu regarding where things were going.

 Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a vote in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on February 15, 2023 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a vote in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on February 15, 2023
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Yoav Gallant is still the defense minister of Israel, as of Tuesday night, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firing him from the role on Sunday when he publicly opposed the government’s push to vote on the judicial overhaul before Passover.

Not only that, but he still has not received an official letter of dismissal, but was only told about it verbally, along with Netanyahu’s office issuing an informal and non-binding public statement.

As of Tuesday night, The Jerusalem Post understands that there was still no clarity between Gallant and Netanyahu as to the future.

No clarity on Gallant's position, future of Defense Ministry

It was unclear if the prime minister’s delay in appointing a replacement for Gallant stemmed from difficulties in deciding which of the four or more candidates being considered for the role, or whether the prime minister was rethinking the move altogether.

Gallant’s firing galvanized and energized an already large national movement against the judicial overhaul leading to a national strike impacting hospitals, Ben-Gurion Airport and wide swaths of the country.

 Thousands of Israelis gather in Tel Aviv in protest following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, on March 26, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Thousands of Israelis gather in Tel Aviv in protest following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, on March 26, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Polls have shown that Gallant’s popularity, as well as that of the opposition in general, especially of National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz, has shot up.

Netanyahu may want to keep Gallant

Netanyahu may want to keep Gallant within his camp to douse the fire on any possible link between the defense minister and opposition figures that could come back to haunt him.

Further, Netanyahu ultimately did what Gallant asked, and both senior IDF officials and Shas Party leader Arye Deri are said to be campaigning to keep him on as defense minister.

At the same time, more aggressive right-wing members of the coalition, both within the Likud and from the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit have been calling loudly for Gallant’s ouster.

RZP head and Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich wanted Gallant out even before this latest fight for standing in his way of trying to take over aspects of building and demolitions in the West Bank.

Who are the top candidates to replace Gallant?

The top candidates to replace Gallant are rumored to be Avi Dichter, Nir Barkat, Yisrael Katz and Miri Regev, all relatively senior Likud ministers with serious resumés.

However, only Dichter comes from a firm defense background, having served as head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

Netanyahu and Dichter at the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Netanyahu and Dichter at the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Still, the last two decades have seen Amir Peretz and Avigdor Liberman as defense ministers, despite being woefully unqualified.

Gallant attended a security meeting with Netanyahu on Tuesday, but it was a pre-scheduled one that included many other security officials.