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Israel: Ministers approve new security cabinet; Bennett holds 1st meeting with IDF chief

The new government on Wednesday approved the makeup of the security cabinet, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held his first work meeting with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

Ministers authorized the composition of the high-level forum, which is responsible for approving military operations, in a telephone vote.

The cabinet will include Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton.

Bennett heads the right-wing Yamina party, of which both Shaked and Kahana are also members. Sa’ar’s right-wing New Hope also includes Elkin and Shasha-Biton, while Liberman heads the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu party. Lapid and Gantz are the leaders of the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue and White parties, respectively. Michaeli is chief of the center-left Labor party and Horowitz leads the left-wing Meretz.

The government also named a ministerial committee to vet candidates for senior diplomatic posts such as ambassadors and consuls-general before their appointments are approved by the government.

The committee includes Lapid, Sa’ar, Kahane and Culture Minister Chili Tropper of Blue and White.

Separately, meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bennett and Kohavi discussed “the operation picture and security challenges on the agenda” and the lessons from last month’s military hostilities against Hamas and other Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups, the new premier’s office said.

“Additionally, they discussed the importance of continuing to implement the multi-year ‘Momentum’ plan,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The plan — dubbed Momentum, or Tenufa in Hebrew — will see huge investments in developing the IDF’s arsenals, including increasing its collection of mid-sized drones, obtaining large numbers of precision-guided missiles from the United States and purchasing additional air defense batteries.

The statement also said Bennett told Kohavi that he will bring Defense Minister Gantz’s recent decision to extend the IDF chief of staff’s tenure for a fourth year up for a cabinet vote “as soon as possible.”

Bennett also held his first work meetings Tuesday with the head of the Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman and Mossad chief David Barnea. During the meeting with Argaman, Bennett extended the Shin Bet chief’s tenure by another month until October.

The meeting with Kohavi came after the Israel Defense Forces struck Hamas targets in Gaza overnight after incendiary devices launched from the coastal enclave sparked two dozen fires in Israeli territory on Tuesday.

The strikes were the first since the May 21 ceasefire that ended the 11 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls.

They were also the first strikes in Gaza since Bennett, who has long insisted that the IDF’s response to arson attacks should be the same as for rocket fire, became premier on Sunday.

The renewed arson attacks came as ultranationalist Israeli Jews paraded in parts of Jerusalem’s Old City. The so-called flag march, the first major test of the new government, was rescheduled to Tuesday after the original event on Jerusalem Day, May 10, was cut short after Hamas fired rockets toward the city, setting off the fighting in Gaza.

Hamas claimed victory after Tuesday’s march was rerouted away from the Muslim Quarter, claiming to have established a “new formula of deterrence” vis-à-vis Israel.

The Gaza-ruling terror group had threatened to attack Israel again over the rescheduled march, but ultimately refrained from firing rockets.

On Wednesday, fire authorities said at least four more blazes erupted in the south due to incendiary devices launched from Gaza.

Source: TOI