Turkel C'tee refuses to question Galant over land deal

By DAN IZENBERG
January 20, 2011 23:06

"In two cases," Dep. A-G writes "Galant was ordered by the proper state authorities to stop using land illegally."

4 minute read.



Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant

Yoav Galant armed 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

The Turkel Advisory Committee rejected a suggestion by a senior Justice Ministry official for more time to investigate whether incoming Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen.

Yoav Galant illegally “annexed” public open space to his five-dunam homestead, according to a letter that Deputy Attorney-General Malchiel Blass sent to the committee on the final day of its deliberations.

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On the following day, the committee submitted its opinion to the government that the allegations of land improprieties did not justify canceling Galant’s appointment and that he was a worthy candidate to lead the army.

The committee, which was appointed by the government, began working on August 23, 2010. On August 24, one of its first orders of business was to ask Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein for a summary of the legal situation regarding several land disputes in which Galant was directly involved on Moshav Amikam.

Before receiving Blass’s answer, the committee interviewed four witnesses. On August 29, it questioned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The following day, it interviewed Defense Minister Ehud Barak, outgoing chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Galant.

Attorneys Ziv Glazberg and Nadav Applebaum, who are representing petitioners from the Green Movement against Galant’s appointment, pointed out in the petition that aside from Galant, none of the other witnesses had known anything about the land disputes or Galant’s conduct in these matters.

Furthermore, the committee members had little information about the affairs when they questioned Galant on August 30. Above all, the committee members acknowledged in their recommendation to the government that they had not had Blass’s report before them until after the meeting.

In the report, Blass wrote that he had not managed to get to the bottom of one affair – the question of the private land Galant had allegedly unofficially annexed to his private garden. He added that two other affairs had been resolved, but only after the authorities had forced him to comply with their decisions, and that he had done so reluctantly.

“In two cases, Maj.-Gen. Galant was ordered by the proper state authorities to stop using land illegally,” wrote Blass. “In one case, involving the use of his car on a path designated for pedestrians, it took a judicial procedure to enforce the order. In the other case, in which he planted olive trees on 28 dunams of land that did not belong to him, his consent to move the trees came two years after the Israel Lands Authority sent a letter ordering him to remove them and after a High Court petition was filed on the matter. All together, it took three years until Galant vacated the land.

“Regarding the third affair, involving the gardening work which some have claimed was carried out on public land, we have been unable, at this point, to gather all the facts.”

Blass wrote that the committee should give Galant an opportunity to explain his behavior, indicating that as matters stood, the facts might persuade the committee to find him unworthy of the post.

“In light of the fact that Galant may have explanations for the facts presented above, it is only proper that he be given the opportunity to respond to them before the committee makes its recommendation,” Blass wrote.

The committee, however, apparently did not believe there was any need for Galant to explain his behavior in these matters. The following day, it wrote that there was no reason not to appoint him chief of staff.

On the day the Turkel Advisory Committee was asked to examine Galant’s appointment, it received letters from the chief-of-staff-designate and his lawyer, Avigdor Klagsblad.

Klagsblad informed the committee about the ruling in a previous High Court petition filed against Galant in 2007, in which most of the issues included in the Green Movement’s petition were raised.

Regarding this letter, Blass wrote, “the main points discussed by attorney Klagsblad in his letter deal with the High Court procedures and do not address all of the issues I have discussed here.”

One key subject that Blass did not mention in his legal survey was the 35 dunams of land that the moshav or the ILA gave to Galant several years after he joined the moshav in the early 1990s.

Nevertheless, questions have been raised regarding this allocation, and there is speculation that the new information that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss handed over to the state prosecution earlier this week involves this land.

According to Galant’s explanation to the committee, he asked for an allotment of 35 dunams of land in another part of the moshav, not adjacent to his homestead. In addition to their homesteads, the veterans of the moshav had received 35 dunams of agricultural land elsewhere on the moshav. Those who joined the moshav in the 1990s did not receive this allotment and signed an agreement stating that they were purchasing a five-dunam homestead only.

Despite the agreement, Galant received the additional 35 dunams (and also planted an orchard on 28 dunams of land next to the allotment, that did not belong to him).

No other newcomer received the 35-dunam allotment.

Furthermore, in the 1997 petition, the state prosecution received incorrect information to the effect that other “newcomers” had received the same allotment as Galant.

It is not clear precisely who gave Galant the extra 35 dunams and why no one else received it. This is one of the questions that the High Court, in the Green Movement petition, has asked the state to explain by February 1.


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