On Saturday night, the citizens of Israel got another glimpse into the tension between the two most senior political figures who have been waging the war against Hamas since October 7 and who are responsible for Israel's security: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant.
Despite the fact that no one has been under any illusions about the affectionate relationship between the two since Netanyahu ordered Galant's dismissal in March, the two have been careful to present a united front since the beginning of the war. This fractured when Netanyahu told reporters that he had asked Gallant to join him in press releases, but the latter refused (and did not deny), and behind the scenes it turns out that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
For the first time, we will reveal new details about the tension between the two offices, including deliberate delays to wartime consultations, the closing of rooms by the prime minister in the Kirya for frequent meetings, to the chagrin of the minister, whose official office it is, and also how Netanyahu's visit to Gaza was almost prevented during the week of lull from the war.
Despite the denial in Gallant's office, the descriptions shed light on the personal tension between the bureaus, but all the parties with whom I spoke made sure to create a buffer between these events and the conduct of a substantive war. "They both understand that this is the most important thing they will do in their entire lives," sources familiar with the relationship said.
During last week's lull, the Prime Minister's Office tried to coordinate a visit for Netanyahu to visit soldiers inside Gaza. Time after time, the bureau was told that there was no authorization from the defense minister because of the activity in Gaza, that the soldiers were not available for this, and various other reasons sent in response to inquiries. Netanyahu's office accepted the explanation, but were surprised to find Galant himself emerging from the sea to visit the soldiers on November 25. The next day, Netanyahu's office no longer waited for explanations and created a well-publicized visit. Without a boat, but with my feet on the ground in Gaza.
Even against the background of the quiet tension between the prime minister and the defense minister, participants in meetings attended by the two say that Galant usually visits them deliberately a few minutes late, mainly to express his dissatisfaction with the fact that the prime minister's office is producing these situation assessments, while he is on a distant front and is required to arrive at the appointed place and time in an instant. Galant arrives, of course, and the meetings are substantive, but the delay and the message are conveyed to Netanyahu in person.
The tension is compounded by the fact that since the beginning of the war, Netanyahu has spent many days in Kirya, the seat of the defense minister in normal times. While Netanyahu's office reserved the rooms for various types of meetings for the war, Minister Galant's office has to make last-minute adjustments and search for rooms from the missing inventory. This was the case, among other things, in a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but according to sources familiar with the matter, better relations would have prevented much unpleasantness.
Since the beginning of the war, it has been possible to count on one hand the number of government meetings, and on one finger the meetings of the Likud faction - but Minister Galant decided to focus on the war, and he does not attend meetings of both kinds. Yesterday, when he did not attend a meeting of the Likud faction, he provoked resentment from his fellow party members, but this does not seem to bother the defense minister, or violate the new practice he has adopted since October 7.
And finally, the press statement event on Saturday night. Around Galant, there were already those who feared a split screen image between him and Netanyahu, which would convey a message that with the resumption of fighting in Gaza, the leaders of the war are unable to be in one room and talk to the public. But Galant's office asked on Saturday morning to summon journalists for a military-security briefing on the resumption of fighting. The one who joined late was the prime minister. His office invited Gallant to join the press conference, scheduled for later that day, but Gallant's office declined.
As someone who attended Saturday night's wartime press conferences, Gallant is understandable. While most of the questions are addressed to Netanyahu, and the incident instantly turns into questions about the rest of the day's events addressed to the prime minister, the ministers beside him become redundant. Gallant wanted to speak to reporters on other issues and get their attention. This would not have been possible when he was with Netanyahu, but the message was problematic. Netanyahu stressed on Saturday night that the conduct of the war cabinet was businesslike, and Gallant made this clear in other talks – but none of them denied the tension.
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