(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday informed the High Court of Justice that "there are major difficulties in accepting the decision to appoint Maj.Gen. Yoav Galant to be IDF chief of General Staff."
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Weinstein said that Galant's appointment is problematic ethically but that "the decision to appoint a chief of General Staff includes security, diplomatic, and professional considerations" that the government has the mandate to decide. He stated that the government must make the final decision on whether or not to continue with Galant's appointment.
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Weinstein added that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak must reconsider his worthiness to become the IDF's next head.
In an official statement released by the Defense Ministry Tuesday, Barak expressed his deep disappointment and sorrow regarding the attorney general's decision not to defend the appointment of Galant to IDF chief of staff in the High Court.
Barak commented that "Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant is a the most fitting man to command the army at this time. General Galant is a courageous fighter, one of the best commanders in the IDF, and a man that many people in Israel owe a lot to. I thought and still think that Galant has the ability, experience, composure and vision to command the army. This need is only sharpened by the shocking events that have befallen the Middle East these last two weeks. I disagree with the position of the attorney general, but I respect it."
Galant is due to be sworn in as chief of General Staff on February 14. However, Weinstein had to decide whether to continue defending Galant’s candidacy against a petition by the Green Movement, which has called on the High Court of Justice to overturn the government’s decision to appoint him.
The petitioners based their demand on allegedly shady, if not illegal, behavior by Galant regarding a number of land affairs on his moshav, Amikam.
The Green Movement filed the petition in September and the first hearing on the petition was held on January 10. The state defended Galant against the allegations that he had seized land allocated for public use and turned it into private access roads, taken over 26 dunams (2.6 hectares) of land that did not belong to him, and built part of his home without a permit.
The court was not satisfied with the state’s answers and ordered it to provide clarifications on how he had obtained 35 dunams of land for an olive orchard and how he had annexed 350 meters of land to his homestead.
Furthermore, the court demanded an explanation as to why the state, in an earlier petition, had mistakenly informed the court that other newcomers to the moshav had also received additional allotments of 35 dunams. The state admitted its error during the hearing, when it told the court that no other newcomer had received an allotment and that those who had requested it had been turned down by the Israel Lands Authority.
In the meantime, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss had already begun investigating aspects of the Galant appointment, including a document written by Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz attempting to influence the choice of the new chief of staff, and the land allegations against Galant.
A few days after the court had demanded answers from the state, Lindenstrauss informed Weinstein that he had new information that might affect the state’s response to the court.
Last week, after handing over the details to Weinstein, Lindenstrauss publicly released the new information, which included allegations that Galant had lied to the Hadera Magistrate’s Court about the illegal expansion of his home and other matters.
On Sunday, Galant and his lawyer, Avigdor Klagsbald, met with Weinstein and tried to convince him with documents and maps that Lindenstrauss’s findings were based on errors.
After that meeting, the attorney-general convened a group of top prosecutors to consult on what the state’s answer should be to the Green Movement petition in light of the state comptroller’s report and Galant’s response.