Analysis: Galant – and bold

During Cast Lead, Galant suggested Hamas tribunal.

Galant (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the middle of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last year, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant was asked why the IDF was not pushing deeper into Gaza to fight Hamas.
With his trademark calm look and soft voice, Galant said that if he wanted to, he could send military forces into downtown Gaza City, have them set up a military tribunal and try top Hamas terrorists.
“All I need to do is get the order,” he said at the time.
This confidence is one of the main reasons Galant was chosen to succeed Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as the IDF’s next chief of General Staff.
Galant has never made a secret of his opinions, often voicing them at General Staff meetings even when he knew it was a lost cause. In contrast to Ashkenazi, whose term has been marked by caution in his dealings with the political echelon, Galant is assumed to be more decisive when making decisions regarding the use of Israel’s offensive capabilities.
Considering that the coming year is expected to be a year of decisions regarding Iran and its nuclear program, Defense Minister Ehud Barak felt that he needed someone who would be able to make the decision to use the IDF if the government were to decide to give the green light for such an operation.
This is not to say that Ashkenazi would not, but without the enthusiastic support of a chief of staff or defense minister it is much more difficult for a government to approve such an operation. The first person who needs to believe in the operation is the commander of the Air Force. Once he is convinced it is possible, he needs to persuade the chief of staff, and then together they go to convince the prime minister.
Galant spent a large portion of his career in the field. He enlisted into the Israeli equivalent of the Navy Seals – called the Shayetet – in the 1970s and climbed the ranks until he was appointed commander of the unit. In this sense, he is like Barak, who was also a commando although with the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, also known as Sayeret Matkal.
In contrast to the other candidates for the top post, Galant did not spend any time in a position on the General Staff that would have exposed him to the major logistics and staff work included in running the military.
Instead, his entire career has been out in the field, except for his term as the prime minister’s military secretary. While this has been held against him, Barak views this as a positive characteristic.