Yoav Galant
GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Over the course of his military service - from the Shayetet 13 naval commandos, through his term as military secretary under prime minister Ariel Sharon, to his post as GOC Southern Command - Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant has made quite a lot of friends.

"He knows how the world works," one of them said yesterday. "He had to learn how to be a politician during his years in the Prime Minister's Bureau, and he's certainly not a little boy. Whoever runs this army can only benefit from knowing who's against who."

Galant maintained links with prominent personalities he became acquainted with during his military career. The affair is now at the center of notes strategic consultants Eyal Arad and Lior Horev as close associates, and the leaked document in question bears their office logo. The two advisers, who were members of Sharon's "farm forum," knew Galant well from the time he served as Sharon's military secretary. But both deny keeping in touch with him over the last two years.

Galant's connection to Sharon began in the 1980s, when he commanded a platoon in the Shayetet, the IDF's elite naval commando unit. There he became acquainted with Omri Sharon, Ariel Sharon's son, who served as munitions officer in the Shaldag unit.

"We stayed in touch through the years," Omri Sharon said yesterday, but denied any involvement in the events related to selecting the next chief of staff.

Other close friends of Galant's include Yoni Koren, chief of staff for the defense minister; Chemi Peres, President Shimon Peres' youngest son, a former combat helicopter pilot and now one of the leading venture capital fund managers in Israel; and millionaire Benny Steinmetz, who is also Galant's jogging partner.

Galant has stayed in touch with many Shayetet veterans as well, including news anchor Gadi Sukenik. Associates of the two men told Haaretz that Sukenik regularly advises Galant on media affairs.

Sukenik himself was more reserved about their relationship, however. "Calling me his media advisor would be an exaggeration," he said.