Yoav Galant
GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will hold a hearing on Sunday on incoming Chief of Staff Yoav Galant's alleged improper use of public land next to his home on Moshav Amikam. Galant, for his part, is confident he can answer the questions posed.

Yesterday, Galant's attorney Dori Klagsbald relayed in writing the major general's responses to questions by the State Comptroller's Office.

Galant denies that he lied in the affair and insists that the Israel Lands Administration did nothing deliberately to benefit him. Galant attributes contradictory accounts in the matter to inaccuracies in land registrations and other disputes.

Galant and his attorneys say they are confident about their replies to the state comptroller's claims. They consider unreasonable certain allegations in the comptroller's draft report.

As far as is known, the report does not contain proof about a deliberate maneuver by Galant and ILA officials to allow him improper benefits.

According to Galant, he bought the plot of land in question in 1992, when he was a lieutenant colonel. He says this undermines allegations suggesting that he received irregular benefits because of his status as a very senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

Galant says other residents received agricultural plots for cultivation before the ILA changed its land-allocation policy. Galant received 35 dunams, on which he planted olive trees.

Galant and his lawyers attribute conflicting descriptions of events to bureaucratic confusion on moshavim for many years. They say that for every map or document that presents a particular picture of a land holding, other maps and documents convey different facts about the same property.

After Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein receives the state comptroller's findings, he is due on February 1 to respond to a petition by the so-called Green Movement objecting to Galant's becoming chief of staff. The Green Movement will give its own response to the High Court of Justice on February 6, just eight days before the planned date for the start of Galant's term.

The extent to which the comptroller's report poses serious questions about the land-holdings affair will determine whether the start of Galant's term is
deferred or whether the appointment goes to the government and the committee
for appointing senior officials.

In recent days, people close to Galant have loudly objected to what they consider a public campaign against him. The major general and his associates say complaints by Amikam residents have been supplemented by people working behind the scenes in an attempt to scuttle Galant's appointment.

"What the forged document [in a separate affair] was not able to do, they are trying to attain via this land-holdings affair," said a source close to Galant.

On Wednesday, Galant's former comrades in the naval commando unit met for their annual gathering; the meeting turned into a rally for the incoming chief of staff. Brig. Gen. Erez Zuckerman, Galant's neighbor at Amikam, told Haaretz that "Yoav is being unfairly accused. It bothers me that his family is suffering ... because this man is being made out to be a liar and a land-grabber."