Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant
Maj. Gen. Yoav GalantIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday morning spoke about the replacement for IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who will step down from his post next February 15, and clarified he does not intend to appoint Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yoav Galant who almost had the post in 2011.

Speaking at a Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) toast for military correspondents in Tel Aviv, Ya'alon said that despite various speculations and publications hinting Galant might take the position, the popular former general is not even being considered.

"On February 15 Gantz will end his role. The replacement will be chosen from the ranks of the IDF, from those wearing uniforms, in an orderly process," said Ya'alon, ruling out the retired Galant, reports Walla!.

Galant was the leading candidate for Chief of Staff in 2011 and actually was appointed to the post. Just two weeks before he was to take the job, he was essentially fired by then Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over allegations that he had taken over state property at his home in Amikam.

The former general was seen as a conservative figure, warning in 2011 that the Arab spring would not produce "liberal Arab leaders." He likewise warned that "a lack of action, negligence by military officials" has created a situation in Gaza where "in the end we'll have to go in with bulldozers," advising the IDF to root out Hamas.

When asked specifically about Galant on Tuesday, Ya'alon merely said "I won't respond to rumors." He added that he would make efforts to clarify the status of candidates "so there won't be a storm like the last time. I will counsel with former defense ministers and Chiefs of Staff."

The statement refers to the infamous Harpaz Affair, in which Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz forged a document meant to prevent Galant from becoming former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's successor. Ashkenazi and several other senior IDF officials are to be tried over the incident.

The two primary candidates to replace Gantz at this point are Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and former IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Yair Naveh. It is expected that if Eizenkot's name is not completely cleared of the Harpaz Affair, Ya'alon may include GOC Northern Command Gen. Yair Golan in the running.

"No threat" on the Golan Heights

Ya'alon then summarized the various security threats posed against Israel, starting with the Syrian rebel forces that have reportedly conquered all of the Syrian Golan Heights in their fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"The rebels are advancing, but they don't threaten us," said Ya'alon. "Those close to the border are local militias."

Despite Ya'alon's reassurances, several stray shells and gunfire have found their way to the Israeli side, wounding Israelis in several cases.

Further, video has shown that not only local militias but the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, has captured the town of Naba Al-Sakhr in Quneitra along the border with Israel.

Back to the truce talks with Hamas

Ya'alon also discussed the continued truce talks with Hamas in Cairo, which are to be reconvened this coming weekend.

Outlining the concessions Israel made to Hamas in securing the current ceasefire, Ya'alon detailed "the fishing zone was opened to six nautical miles on the coastal strip, the Kerem Shalom Crossing raised the rate of entry of goods to 350 trucks a day, and the Erez Crossing was opened."

"They are talking about bringing in forces from the regime of Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - ed.) to the Rafah Crossing (to Sinai) to open it, and if they consider the possibility of putting forces of (his) regime also in the Palestinian side of the Erez Crossing instead of Hamas we will be for it," said Ya'alon.

The defense minister added that construction materials, which were used in the past to build Gaza's extensive terror tunnel network used lethally against the IDF, will be strictly limited.

"Building materials and reconstruction equipment will enter the Gaza Strip through a mechanism that Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai is building, together the with UN envoy Robert Serry and the Palestinian Authority," said Ya'alon.

The defense minister warned "if those materials are transferred to building tunnels - the transfer will stop immediately."

Reports have revealed that reconstruction on the terror tunnels has already begun even without the new materials, and the renewed building has even been captured on film.

Ya'alon concluded by casting doubt on the concerns that Hamas will renew its attack on Israel on September 25 if its exorbitant demands, including the construction of a Gaza sea and airport as well as the release of hundreds of terrorists, are not met.

"There's no sign that someone is intending to renew fire. Some sort of deterrence was established here, they paid a very heavy price. On the other hand, a point of light was opened for them, as in the Rafah Crossing and others," commented Ya'alon.

Many in Israel have criticized the government for opening those points of light for the terrorist organization and not taking decisive military action against it, criticism reflected in opinion polls showing great opposition to the ceasefire and a nose-dive in support for Netanyahu.