AG asked to look into Gantz building violation claims

NGO sends letter to Weinstein, Turkel, asking to revoke appointment of chief of staff over illegal construction allegations.

BennyGantzHome311 (photo credit: GIDEON MARKOWICZ)
(photo credit: GIDEON MARKOWICZ)
Will illegal construction be the downfall of yet another general? Right-wing NGO the Center for the Land of Israel sent a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Monday, asking him to revoke the appointment of Maj.-Gen Benny Gantz as IDF chief of General Staff.
The group’s lawyer, Aviad Visoly, claimed that like the former candidate for the job, Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant, Gantz, too, had committed building violations around his house.
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A copy of the letter was also sent to Judge Ya’acov Turkel.
Visoly wrote that in October 2009, Gantz had erected a patio deck on public-owned land adjacent to his house in Rosh Ha’ayin and built a supporting concrete wall without the appropriate permits.
Gantz only tore down the illegal construction in March 2010, after receiving several warnings from city authorities and after news of the illegal construction was published in the media, Visoly wrote.
Last March, the Hebrew daily Yisrael Hayom ran a series of articles about Gantz’s illegal construction. On March 10, it reported that demolition of the illegal deck and supporting wall had been completed to the city’s satisfaction.
The Center for the Land of Israel argued that Gantz should be prosecuted for his actions like any other citizen, and noted that “there is no substantial difference between the offenses that Gantz allegedly committed and those allegedly committed by Galant and because of which Galant’s appointment as the chief of General Staff was canceled.”
Galant’s appointment to the role of IDF chief was canceled after a state comptroller’s investigation determined that he had appropriated state lands and lied about it to the authorities.
“It is unacceptable that a person who allegedly committed criminal construction offenses be appointed to lead IDF forces who enforce the very same laws against civilians,” Visoly wrote. “It goes contrary to the principle of equality, the duty to be free of conflicts of interest, and administrative justice.”
The group claimed that as head of the military, the chief of staff was responsible for demolishing hundreds of structures in the West Bank for building violations and that it would be impossible to live with the double standard.
Visoly said he had complained about the alleged violation to the chief military prosecutor in the past, requesting an investigation into the matter, but had been told there was no link between Gantz’s private affairs and his service in the IDF.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Visoly said he had no ties, personal or political, with Galant or anybody else who might wish to see Gantz out of the running. He also said he was unconcerned by the possible harm that might come to the army or the state if Gantz’s appointment fell through.
“The army will continue functioning no matter what happens to this or that general,” he told the Post. “In the worst-case scenario, the current chief of staff will continue in his post for a little longer. It is important that appointments be conducted according to the law. There is no justification for compromising on legality for anyone. Maybe in this way our leaders will understand that the law cannot be flouted.”
Visoly added that after hearing what the Justice Ministry had to say on the matter, his group would decide whether or not to petition the High Court of Justice.
The Justice Ministry said it had received the letter, but did not say whether Weinstein planned to act on it.
Also on Monday, Galant’s lawyers asked the High Court to withdraw the petition they had filed on Sunday asking for an interim injunction to prevent the government from canceling his appointment and choosing Gantz instead.
Galant had argued that only the Turkel Committee could reject his candidacy. However, the court denied the request for an interim injunction on Sunday, paving the way for the government to choose Gantz for the position.
Following Galant’s request on Monday to withdraw his petition, and in light of the government’s Sunday decision to cancel his appointment, the court decided to throw out the original petition against him by the Green Movement as being no longer relevant.