Galant: I didn't lie and I don't intend on resigning

State comptroller's findings on IDF chief-designate reveal multiple improprieties in land dealings that could derail appointment.

Galant 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s office)
Galant 311
(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.
Sources 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.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that “only the attorney-general has the authority to determine the ramifications of thecomptroller’s report on the candidacy of Yoav Galant.”
“I am waiting for the attorney-general’s recommendations,” the prime minister said.
Thestatement 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 affidavit.
“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.”
One 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.
Another 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.
The 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.
TheLikud 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.