(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Incoming IDF chief of General Staff Maj.- Gen. Yoav 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, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus said Thursday.
In his examination of Galant’s land dealings, Lindenstraus found that Galant had requested the building permit retroactively, after the structure was already standing.
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This finding was one instance of Galant’s problematic behavior that the state comptroller found in his examination of complaints of improper conduct by the chief of staff-designate regarding various plots of land that he allegedly seized unlawfully in his moshav, Amikam.
Lindenstraus sent a 22-page report on Galant’s land affairs to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday. Weinstein must decide, on the basis of this information, whether he will continue to defend Galant’s appointment against a petition contesting it in the High Court of Justice.
With all eyes now focused on him, Weinstein issued a terse statement following Lindenstraus’s public disclosure of the essence of his findings.
“The material that we received and its legal significance will be examined with the seriousness and thoroughness that it requires,” he said in a written statement.
“The attorney-general will make his decision next week.”
In a hearing before Lindenstraus on Sunday, Galant said he and his lawyer had not had enough time to investigate the contents of the affidavit properly before they had to answer Lindenstraus’s questions, first in writing and then during the hearing.
Galant also argued that he should not be held responsible for the affidavit because his lawyer had been in charge of the matter.
But Lindenstraus stressed that “there is no disputing the fact that Maj.-Gen. Galant’s signature is on the affidavit, confirming that the facts included in it were correct. Galant was warned [that he must tell the truth] in accordance with the law.”
Lindenstraus also found that Galant had been caught in another lie. In 2003, when he asked for permission from the agricultural department of the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) in Haifa to plant trees on his plot of land, he said he had already been doing so for many years. In fact, the state comptroller found that he had never planted trees on that plot.
Lindenstraus was also not satisfied with Galant’s response to his query about why he had grown olive trees in a 28-dunam plot of land adjacent to the 35-dunam plot that the ILA had given him.
“There is no question that Galant trespassed on land that did not belong to him,” Lindenstraus wrote.
Galant explained the matter by saying that the planting in this plot had been a mistake that he regretted. However, he was not responsible for the mistake. It was caused by the contractor who did the work for him.
The contractor, Gur Rosen, was a personal friend of Galant, Lindenstraus pointed out. Galant maintained that the mistake was an innocent one and said it was caused by factors connected to the planting work, and that he had not been involved in it.
Lindenstraus also wanted to know why it took Galant four years to remove the trees from the plot that did not belong to him after the ILA ordered him to do so. He said he had handed the matter over to his lawyer, Michael Tishbi, who then got in touch with the ILA and the moshav to discuss the matter. Galant told Lindenstraus that he had not wanted to uproot the trees and had offered to leave them behind on the plot after being ordered to vacate it.
Regarding complaints that Galant had taken over two strips of land designated as public open space and built private access roads to his home on both of them, Lindenstraus wrote that “Maj.-Gen. Galant made improper use of public open space close to his home which was designated for use by the public at large. [Instead,] the land served as roads for his exclusive use.
“There is no disputing the fact that public open space belongs to the entire public,” continued Lindenstraus. “In this case, Galant made use of an area that did not belong to him and did so for many years.”
Lindenstraus wrote that the authorities gave Galant special treatment because of his elevated status. This, he added, was a function of the improper culture of administration practiced by the ILA authorities which granted him these favors. Their behavior should be investigated separately, he recommended.
In a response to the state comptroller’s findings, the Green Party – which petitioned against Galant’s appointment as incoming chief of staff – said the state comptroller’s investigation not only revealed the false affidavit that Galant submitted to the court, but also provided a “very disturbing picture of a man who systematically shifts the responsibility to others.”