Attorney general blocks appointment of Israeli general


ONLY TWO weeks before Maj Gen Yoav Galant was due to take up the position of Israel’s top general, the country’s attorney general has ruled that he cannot defend the appointment.

The decision left Israel’s military echelon in disarray, in the unprecedented position of not knowing who will be the next head of the army.

In response to a high court petition alleging that the general illegally acquired land to expand his home, attorney general Yehuda Weinstein ruled yesterday that prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak must reconsider the appointment.

“The data in the file against Gen Galant raises significant judicial difficulties over the feasibility of the decision to appoint him to the role of chief of staff,” Mr Weinstein noted. He doubted “whether it would be suitable, ethically speaking, to leave the appointment as is”.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak appointed deputy chief of staff, Maj Gen Yair Naveh, as acting army chief for up to 60 days, during which a new chief of staff would be chosen.

Mr Barak said he disagreed with the attorney general’s decision, but will respect it. He said Yoav Galant was the best man for the job, particularly in light of the events that have shaken the Middle East in recent weeks.

Leaving Israel without a top general, even temporarily, was not an option.

Military commentators argued that the most logical step would have been to extend the term of the outgoing chief of staff, Lieut Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, for a few months. The only problem was Mr Barak is not even on speaking terms with Gen Ashkenazi.

Maj Gen Galant (52), who planned Israel’s invasion of Gaza in December 2008, was appointed Israel’s next chief of staff in August. Israel’s Green Movement then petitioned the high court alleging that Mr Galant had seized public land adjacent to his home and turned it into a private access road, taken over land that did not belong to him, and built part of his home without a permit.