Photo Credit: Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem, December 26, 2023.

A sharp confrontation broke out Sunday night at the cabinet meeting, regarding the next wave of high-ranking appointments in the IDF. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich slammed the security establishment, saying: “The IDF and its leader failed not only tactically and operatively, but also intellectually. The General Staff shapes the character of the next generation of commanders, and this round of appointments should be carried out by the next General Staff. This General Staff failed and therefore has our backing only for using force in war,” not appointments.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant rebuffed Smotrich’s argument, saying, “If you refer to this, then you should refer to the complete reality of how the IDF, after the failure, recovered from the most difficult situation and is conducting itself in an exemplary manner. The IDF brings the achievements we are most proud of.”


And, as has become the rule rather than the exception when Religious Zionism ministers question the validity of statements and behavior of the security top brass, Gallant proceeded to attack Smotrich not for what he said, but for saying it: “You are harming Israel’s security and undermining the security establishment only for political reasons. This is always serious, but especially in wartime, to allow anybody to turn the IDF into a militia in the service of one party or another.”

Smotrich later tweeted: “What harms Israel’s security is the rejection in advance of any criticism, and an unwillingness to have a substantive discussion on issues critical to Israel’s security. Silencing real discussion and maintaining a chorus of only one voice through shaming and defamation is as October 6 as it gets. This is exactly how dangerous concepts grow. I suggest to my friend the defense minister to stay within the realms of the relevant discussion, even if it is poignant.”

Did he just say Gallant can’t keep up with poignant discussions so he resorts to putdowns? Yes, I believe he did.

Meanwhile, Smotrich-haters won a big one when they dug up a 2015 interview on the Knesset Channel, in which Smotrich, then Deputy Knesset Speaker, suggested that while the Palestinian Authority is a burden, Hamas is an asset. I’m embedding it so you can follow his line of logic if your Hebrew is good enough. Essentially, Smotrich said that Hamas is a pariah and so cannot harm Israel in the global arena, while the PA is respected around the world and as such can cause Israel a great deal of damage.

One has to be petty and vindictive to suggest that this evaluation from 2015 is parallel and equal to the security establishment’s belief that Hamas was deterred and that what it took to keep it happy and docile was Qatari money and Israeli jobs. But Smotrich will not be able to shake this one off without recognizing the similarities to the Conceptzia, which are there.

Smotrich is a learned and refined intellectual, while Gallant is a professional soldier and quite crude – but it remains to be seen whether an all-out attack on Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy will enable Netanyahu’s right-wing ministers to block Halevy’s access to major military appointments.

It should also be noted that Gallant himself was not necessarily enamored with Halevy when the Lapid caretaker government forced him on the Netanyahu government at the last minute, during a national election. This means that Gallant is not so much protecting Halevy as he is laboring to forge the next chapter in his own political career, seeing as he and Netanyahu have been hostile to each other ever since the crowds on Kaplan Street last winter forced the PM to rescind his ousting of his DM.


Previous articleThe Parallels Between Sinwar and Yasser Arafat
Next articleUS Says Rafah Evacuation Will Take Weeks, Possibly Longer
David writes news at