In conversations with friends on Thursday IDF chief of staff-designate Yoav Galant said he is convinced he will be appointed chief of staff and that he will convince Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that he did not lie to the authorities. Galant’s lawyers will be in touch with Weinstein next week; the attorney general must advise the High Court of Justice by Tuesday of his current position regarding the petition by the so-called Green Movement to disqualify Galant from the top post in the Israel Defense Forces.
Yesterday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak declined to respond to the latest developments. At general staff headquarters, several names were floated as replacement candidates if Galant’s appointment is disallowed.
They include Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz and Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who lost out to Galant in the process to replace the current chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi. The latter is due to retire on February 14. Also mentioned was Yair Naveh, the new deputy chief of staff, and former deputy chiefs of staff Dan Harel and Moshe Kaplinski.
If the post is not filled on schedule, Ashkenazi’s term might have to be extended. Ashkenazi, whose relations with Barak are poor, is said not to be happy with such a prospect but may relent under the circumstances. Barak, on the other hand, may veto Ashkenazi’s continued service.
The Lindenstrauss report produced confusion and surprise at general staff headquarters due to the questions it raises about Galant’s appointment. Senior officers told Haaretz yesterday that, based on the state comptroller’s findings, the appointment would not withstand scrutiny by either the High Court of Justice or the man in the street. They said the public wants a chief of staff with a clean reputation, regardless of whether Galant acted with malice.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that only the attorney general is authorized to decide on the implications the state comptroller’s report would have on Galant’s nomination.
Netanyahu said he would await Weinstein’s decision on the matter, and sources in the Prime Minster’s Office denied reports that senior officials there were hinting to Galant that he should withdraw his candidacy.
Justice Ministry sources said Weinstein would decide next week whether he could continue to defend Galant’s appointment before the High Court of Justice.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said yesterday Galant twice did not tell the truth in contact with the government regarding the land affair at his home on Moshav Amikam.
One instance involved assertions in an affidavit submitted to a Magistrate’s Court. The other involved a letter in Galant’s handwriting to the Israel Lands Administration.
Lindenstrauss made the assertions in a summary on the case; Galant allegedly made improper use of land next to his house.
Lindenstrauss also found that Galant had taken over 28 dunams of land that was not his and didn’t vacate it for about four years. The state comptroller said Galant had improperly used open public land next to his house that was to be accessible to the public, not for use as a private access road.
Galant, however, is said not to be contemplating withdrawing his nomination as chief of staff.
Close associates characterized the matter as two inaccuracies among thousands of documents describing bureaucratic matters stretching over 18 years since he bought the property in 1992. The sources said Galant derived no financial gain as a result of the inaccuracies.
In the first instance, the comptroller noted that a statement on behalf of Galant and his wife to the Magistrate’s Court stated that the couple had sought permission for an expansion before construction. Galant signed an affidavit stating that to the best of his knowledge this was true.
Lindenstrauss said other documents indicated that Galant had made his request after the work was carried out.
In the second instance, Lindenstrauss found that Galant made false assertions in a 2003 letter to the Israel Lands Administration regarding cultivation of olive trees near Galant’s home.
The comptroller also noted concerns about suspicions that government authorities had given Galant concessions beyond the letter of the law due to the major general’s high position.
Lindenstrauss noted that Galant said the planting of trees on land that he did not own was carried out by a contractor in good faith. The comptroller said, however, that the trees were only removed about four years later.
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