Ashkenazi basks in Knesset’s admiration

Rivlin tells former chief of General Staff he opposes shorter cooling-off period, while other MKs criticize manner in which successor was chosen.

February 21, 2011 20:04
2 minute read.
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi

ashkenazi is a suit 311. (photo credit: Avi Hayun)

Coalition and opposition MKs alike congratulated former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi Monday for the four years in which he led the IDF, although some looked forward rather than backward, hinting at his anticipated entrance into the political arena.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Ashkenazi he opposed any legislative initiatives to reduce the three-year cooling-off period for top-ranking IDF officers considering a career in politics.

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Nevertheless, Rivlin said he was “certain that Ashkenazi will continue to serve the people of Israel as he has done thus far. Everything in due time. Gabi is a young man and I am certain that if he so desires, he will conquer the benches of this building like others before him. The question is simply when.”

The “Ashkenazi Law," meant to shorten the waiting time to 18 months, recently failed to pass in the Knesset.

Earlier in the day, during Ashkenazi’s farewell meeting with the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) also hinted at Ashkenazi’s future, noting that “Gabi isn’t leaving the country.”

The former defense minister added that “history will do its own accounting and will prove that you are brave and can take blows.”

Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said the selection process for Ashkenazi’s successor “revealed problems” at the levels of both the defense minister and prime minister.

“The process was not run appropriately for the defense establishment, and harmed the institution of the chief of General Staff,” said Mofaz, himself a former army chief. “I hope that the lesson was learned.”

Coalition member Danny Danon (Likud) addressed Ashkenazi, saying that “both the coalition and the opposition value you. It was infuriating to see the Defense Minister’s behavior during the selection process of your successor.”

Ashkenazi, in turn, had warm words for the panel, which, he said “is, for the IDF, the most professional and important committee in the Knesset.”

“History gave me a rare second chance to become chief of General Staff,” he continued.

He was referring to having lost out to Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz in the previous selection process for army chief, and then being called back to uniform to replace him after Halutz’s dismal performance during the Second Lebanon War.

“The army understands its purpose and is focused on the threat,” Ashkenazi continued. “We concentrated on returning security to citizens so they could live normal lives.”

The former chief of General Staff said recent events in the region posed challenges despite the relative quiet along Israel’s borders.

“We need to be ready for the entire range of threats,” he said. “We need to remember that in our neighborhood we need a strong army. In the Middle East, there is no room for the weak; a strong army distances war. Peace with Egypt is a strategic asset, as is peace with Jordan. We must act to remove additional states from the cycle of the conflict.”

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