The de facto annexation of the West Bank has been made possible by the coalition agreement reached by the Israeli prime minister, which gave the far-right unprecedented civil and military control.
Herzi Halevi, Israel’s recently appointed military commander, is put in an unusual circumstance. The general is required to answer to not one, not two, but two and a half defense ministers.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is a member of the Likud. Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the extreme right-wing Religious Zionism party, serves as a minister in the defense department. Both the national security minister and a portion of the defense portfolio are held by Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Jewish Power party.
With plans to reorganize the authority in the occupied West Bank, which Israel has administered – with the exception of East Jerusalem – through the Israeli Civil Administration, a division of the defence ministry, the latter two far-right politicians have staked out their share of the ministry.
Smotrich demanded – and received – control over the civil administration, which had previously been solely under the control of the defense minister, as part of the agreement that allowed him to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s new government.
Police chief Ben-Gvir negotiated taking control of the border police stationed in the West Bank. The Israeli army’s central command has been in charge of that force up until this point.
However, as per the coalition agreement, the change in authority will now be put into effect 90 days after the formation of the new government.
The disruption of the defense ministry by Netanyahu is the least understood of all the ministry divisions that have taken place to make it easier to offer jobs and appease partners in his far-right coalition.
Netanyahu has carried out an unprecedented – and unprecedentedly risky – move despite warnings from senior officers, including those given in an urgent meeting with the departing military chief Aviv Kochavi.
A prime minister who takes great pride in being “Mr. Security” wouldn’t do this. A man who has been charged with three crimes does it to avoid going to jail.
According to Yagil Levy, a professor of political sociology and public policy at the Open University of Israel, these historic adjustments to the army’s structure and job assignments could cause senior officers in particular to feel a loss of prestige.
Former Israeli air force commander and former director general of the defense ministry Amir Eshel issued a warning that dividing the ministry into three separate entities might actually endanger national security.
At Halevi’s handover ceremony last Monday, defence minister Gallant addressed the matter and pledged to work to reduce “external pressure” on the armed forces.
Communal command was emphasized by Gallant. According to him, there is one commander for each soldier, and the chief of staff, who reports to the defense minister, is above them all.
Instead of two hundred and fifty, there is only one minister of defense. Gallant, who is supposed to be in charge of the ministry, is known behind his back as “executive contractor for the dismantling of the army” or “minister of defence of the second degree.”. It’s not his fault in this instance.
The new building was put to the test earlier than anticipated on Friday when a power crisis within the coalition developed after an unauthorized Jewish outpost in the West Bank was evacuated shortly after it was established overnight. Smotrich and Ben-Gvir were defied as Gallant commanded the evacuation.