For months Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, new chief-designate of the IDF General Staff,
must have assumed that the job was his. In decades past it would indeed have
been in the bag, innuendo about his integrity notwithstanding. Galant was vetted
by the Turkel Committee, which approved his appointment, and he is due to be
sworn in on February 14.
It is a badge of honor for Israeli society that,
no matter what the eventual outcome of the disagreeable episode that now
threatens his elevation, nothing at this juncture can be taken for
Galant will be grilled next week by State Comptroller Micha
Lindenstrauss regarding allegations that he de facto annexed 28 dunams of public
land to his own holding in Moshav Amikam, followed by another 350 square meters,
and that he possibly benefitted from favoritism when allocated 35 additional
dunams by the Israel Lands Authority.
Rumors about strong-arm tactics by
Galant in his own community had been circulating for years. But the Turkel
Committee gave Galant its green light to succeed Gabi Ashkenazi as chief of the
General Staff, despite multiple complaints and objections to the
attorney-general and the Ministry of Justice.
Curiously – and this in
itself begs an exhaustive and exacting review – the prosecution was loath to
handle this hot potato. The evaluations it submitted to the Turkel Committee
belittled the suspected transgressions and essentially facilitated Galant’s
promotion. Subsequently the High Court of Justice declined to nix the
We particularly must ascertain that Galant didn’t perjure
himself before the court, because the truth is no less vital in his case than it
was regarding highly successful officers recently punished for bending the truth
to protect family members in minor misdemeanor cases.
state comptroller is particularly intolerant of whitewashing. Now that his
office has entered the fray, we may be confident that the full story will come
out. This certainly does not mean that Galant will necessarily be found
unsuitable for the IDF’s highest post.
Moreover, if Lindenstrauss finds
no fault in his conduct, Israelis will be able to rest easy that our No. 1
soldier is above reproach – as only befits a commander with so many lives,
literally, in his care.
FROM THIS point on, no comradely knowing winks
and cover-ups are likely. That in itself is heartening. What is discomfiting,
though, is the sense that the investigatory process is being conducted in
reverse. First came the appointment, with the substantive probe of allegations
that might threaten it following only after the fact.
The only positive
that might emerge from this back-to-front sequence of events is that it is
turning the spotlight onto the long-festering but often overlooked problem of
land use in moshavim. Each family in the cooperative villages has a small –
often too small – holding. The farms in many instances are surrounded by public
lands that moshav members often use without explicit authorization and whose
status many never bother to legalize. A certain correlation, perhaps (though not
in dimension), comes from America’s Western states where ranchers spread out on
The fault here is primarily that of the state, which never
moved to impose order in the countryside; it could have allowed farmers to
legally lease additional land (as modern agriculture cannot be successfully
pursued on tiny plots).
GALANT, HOWEVER, doesn’t run a working farm. The
allegation that he may have padded his holding, perhaps illicitly, with dozens
of dunams doesn’t necessarily entitle him to our lenience as might be the case
elsewhere in the agricultural sector.
It’s particularly pertinent to note
that Galant’s neighbor, in his own moshav, was tried for seeking to gain control
of the very same land that Galant himself later apparently appropriated. Not
only must justice be impartial, but anyone who aspires to climb to the highest
IDF rung must be squeaky clean and be judged by the highest
Galant may by a superb general, appropriately supported for
the post of chief of the General Staff, and he unquestionably deserves the
benefit of the doubt until categorically proven otherwise in this case. But it
is right and necessary that the lingering doubts be vigorously and thoroughly
We need to be confident in the character, judgment and
integrity of the man tasked with some of the most difficult decisions in Israeli
public life; the man to whom so many Israelis entrust the well-being of their
children; the man charged, above all, with our defense.