JERUSALEM — Israel's incoming government has selected former Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant as the new defense minister.
Gallant played a key role in Israeli operations in the 1990s and early 2000s. He will replace Benny Gantz, who served as defense minister since 2020.
Gallant will inherit a military force that is in the midst of incorporating the Momentum plan in a bid to become a more digital-centric and technologically advanced force. He will also enter office amid tension with Iran and a stalled peace process with Palestine.
Gantz often traveled abroad as defense minister, including to the United States, Turkey, Morocco, Bahrain and Azerbaijan. His frequent trips came in the wake of the Abraham Accords, an agreement meant to normalize relations between Israel and its regional neighbors Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
Israel has since secured new defense deals in Morocco and the UAE, and it plays a greater role with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command now that Israel falls into U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.
Gallant was born in 1958 in Jaffa, Israel, and currently lives in Amikam. He has a bachelor of arts in economics and business administration from the University of Haifa, and he studied management at Harvard University. He serves in the legislative body Knesset with the Likud party, and he chairs the foreign affairs and defense committees.
Gallant served in the Israel Defense Forces for 35 years, during which he commanded a missile boat and the elite Shayetet 13 unit. He moved from his position as a Navy commando to serve in the Ground Forces, later becoming head of the Gaza division.
In 2002, he was appointed military secretary of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He was in a key position to witness Israel's major decisions during the Second Intifada. He then led the IDF's Southern Command from 2005 to 2010, during the era after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and had to contend with Hamas rocket fire.
He managed Operation Warm Winter in early 2008. Tension along the Gaza border eventually led to Operation Cast Lead in 2009, in which Gallant played a key role. He was briefly tapped to be IDF chief of staff in 2010, but his appointment was withdrawn amid controversy over property claims. He was later cleared of wrongdoing.
Gallant was elected to the Knesset in 2015. After serving as the minister of construction, he became the minister of immigration and absorption as well as the minister of education. In 2018, when Gallant was a member of the Kulanu party and the minister of construction, he described the Oslo peace process as problematic.
"Israel gave and gave and didn't get anything back," he said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. At the time, he did not rule out a Palestinian state but said it should not have military control of its airspace. He also praised Israel's new security technology, such as the Iron Dome and its cyber tools.
He switched parties in 2018 and served as the minister of immigration under Netanyahu's government in 2019. As a minister, he also was part of the Security Cabinet, which makes key security decisions.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at the Jerusalem Post.