Netanyahu: Only Attorney General Can Decide Outcome of Galant Report

Report published Thursday said incoming IDF Chief Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant had indeed seized land near his home; report leaves Galant's imminent appointment up in the air.

Only the state's attorney general can decide the ramifications of the report that the incoming Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff illegally took over public land that was not his, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

The prime minister was responding to a report by the state comptroller published on Thursday, which stated that Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant had indeed illegally seized public land near his home on Moshav Amikam. The report is now passed on to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who will decide what the next step will be. Netanyahu said he will wait and hear what Weinstein had to say.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak named Galant as the next IDF chief of staff in August, to replace current Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi who steps down in February.

The Green Party submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice which called for disqualifying Galant as a candidate for IDF chief after an investigative report published in Israeli newspaper Maariv alleged that Galant had taken over public land and carved out roads near his home.

An investigation into the allegations followed and a subsequent report published by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on Thursday found that Galant had indeed misused public land.

The report brings to light two main issues. The first is that Galant had signed an affidavit confirming an untrue statement with respect to his building permit. The second issue is that Galant had approached the Israel Lands Administration with a request to plant olive trees on land that he had supposedly cultivated. Galant had stated that the land in question had been cultivated for several years, but the report reveals that Galant had in fact not cultivated the land.

Galant indeed used land that was not his, the comptroller ruled after completing his investigation. When he was notified that his home had strayed onto public land, he only turned to legal help over the matter four years later.

"There is no dispute that Galant used land that was not his, that belonged to the public and this use continued for many years," the comptroller stated in his report.

Since the report does not address the question whether Galant is qualified to serve as the new head of the IDF, the issue is now passed on to Weinstein.

The attorney general will have to decide whether to approve Galant's appointment, or to delay it until a more extensive discussion is held - possibly via another meeting of the committee that approves such senior appointments. Weinstein also has the option of canceling the appointment altogether.

The Justice Ministry responded to the report released on Thursday by saying that a decision regarding how to proceed with Galant's imminent appointment will be made next week.

In their statement, the ministry says that the comptrollers report will be examined with "serious consideration and with the thoroughness it demands," before making a decision on what will be the next step.