(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s office)
Incoming IDF chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant will fight to clear his name and will not surrender the top military post, defense officials said on Thursday, after the state comptroller issued a report claiming he did not tell the truth in a sworn court affidavit.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus said Galant
lied to Hadera Magistrate’s Court in a sworn affidavit when he said he had asked for permission to exceed his building rights by 40 square meters before building the additional floor space. In his examination of Galant’s land dealings, Lindenstrauss found that Galant had requested the building permit retroactively, after the structure was already standing.
Galant has been set to succeed Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on February 14. Sources close to Galant said he would wait for Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein’s decision on the comptroller’s report, expected next week, which will determine if he can serve in the post.
Galant denied the comptroller’s findings about improprieties in his land dealings, telling associates: “I didn’t lie, and I don’t intend to resign.”
He acknowledged that mistakes were made in the land dealings in Moshav Amikam.
“There were two errors found in the thousands of documents that were checked. I didn’t get anything out of the affidavits and the letters,” Channel 10 quoted Galant as saying. He added that he intends to send further information to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday to help clarify the issue.
Galant said that he was “convinced that there is nothing that can block the appointment to chief of General Staff.”
If Weinstein decides that Galant cannot lead the army, Defense Minister Ehud Barak will need to hurriedly choose a replacement.
close to Barak said that the defense minister has yet to consider new
candidates and will do so only if ordered to by the attorney-general.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that “only the
attorney-general has the authority to determine the ramifications of the
comptroller’s report on the candidacy of Yoav Galant.”
“I am waiting for the attorney-general’s recommendations,” the prime minister said.
statement distanced the Prime Minister’s Office from a comment in the
media attributed to one of its senior officials saying he did not rule
out that Galant would voluntarily step aside. These comments “are
incorrect,” the statement said.
The comptroller’s report sent
shockwaves through the IDF, with senior officers in active service and
in the reserves saying, anonymously, that Galant could not now become
chief of staff after he was found to have allegedly lied in a sworn
“An officer who has been caught lying cannot serve as
chief of General Staff,” said one former general, referring to two cases
in 2010 in which Ashkenazi fired two brigadier-generals who were caught
lying about car accidents.
“If those officers were fired, it is impossible to imagine that the chief of General Staff can lie and get away with it.”
possibility is that Barak would ask Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, the current
deputy chief of staff brought back from retirement to serve under
Galant, to take up the post.
Other possible candidates are
Naveh’s predecessor, Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who lost out on the top spot
to Galant and recently retired from the IDF, OC Northern Command Maj.-
Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi.
option, although deemed unlikely, is that Ashkenazi would be asked to
remain in his post for another few months until a replacement is found.
Ashkenazi and Galant had been meeting frequently in recent weeks to
prepare for the transfer of command, and on Thursday Galant visited a
military base as part of his preparatory work.
It is also
possible that Barak will ask one of the major-generals to hold the
position in caretaker status and without receiving a promotion in rank
until he chooses a new IDF chief. This has never happened before and
would likely require a vote in the cabinet and perhaps adjustments to
the military laws.
“Galant will continue preparing for the position until he is told otherwise,” one defense official said.
case at issue first emerged two years ago in an investigative report in
Ma’ariv that cited alleged zoning and construction offenses at Galant’s
home in Moshav Amikam near Zichron Ya’acov. His neighbors say he carved
out a road, built a parking lot and planted trees on land that did not
belong to him.
After Galant was chosen in August to become
military chief, environmental groups petitioned against the appointment
and Likud Minister Michael Eitan pressed the government to look further
into the allegations.
On Thursday, Eitan said that Galant’s
appointment to chief of General Staff should not be allowed to continue,
because he acted like a “mafioso” in his treatment of local officials.
Eitan said that, because of Galant’s position, he had received
preferential treatment from them to cover up unlawful behavior.
Likud minister did not blame Netanyahu or Barak for choosing an
unworthy candidate to head the IDF, but rather placed the blame on the
Turkel Committee that vets appointments to senior government positions
and which cleared Galant for the post.Herb Keinon and Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.