The back-to-front probe of Yoav Galant

It is right and necessary that the lingering doubts be vigorously and thoroughly investigated.

Yoav Galant 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yoav Galant 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 granted.
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 appointment.
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.
Thankfully the 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 federal lands.
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 standards.
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 investigated.
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.