Michael Eitan
Michael Eitan. Photo by Michal Fattal
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The failed nomination of Yoav Galant as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff earlier this year continued to echo on Monday, as a minister and the retired justice who heads the panel appraising senior appointments exchanged sharp words over the Galant appointment process.

Speaking at a debate at the Israel Bar Association's annual conference, Government Services Improvement Minister Michael Eitan slammed the Turkel Committee, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, which had approved Galant's nomination, even though suspicions had surfaced about Galant's alleged illegal appropriation of land near his home on Moshav Amikam.

Opinions on the land issue written by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein later led the government to withdraw Galant's nomination.

"The Turkel Committee failed to do its job in an exceptionally humiliating fashion," Eitan said. "It did not conduct itself transparently, it didn't call a number of key witnesses, and it finished its job in six days, even though it had [relevant] material before it for six months."

Turkel lashed back, calling Eitan's comments "demagoguery," and claimed his panel had done a thorough job.

According to Turkel, Galant's primary sin was that his land deals were not settled at the proper time.

"Is this meant to invalidate a person who had been praised to the skies by the prime minister and defense minister?" asked Turkel. "We weighed everything and believed that these issues didn't disqualify an accomplished person from being chief of staff."

During a conference session on criminal law, former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann noted that over the past 35 years, two prime ministers - Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert - were forced out of office due to criminal investigations against them, while another three - Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu - had to function while under investigation.

The incessant investigation of prime ministers in recent years "exacts a huge strategic and economic price on the state," Friedmann said.

One of Olmert's attorneys, Eli Zohar, concurred, saying that "criminal law has not just invaded public life, it controls it."

State Attorney Moshe Lador protested, saying, "There isn't a single representative in the system that believes we submit files [for prosecution] without evidence or justification. We have more oversight over our work than any prosecuting body in the world."