President Shimon Peres labeled outgoing IDF chief Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi “one
of the best chiefs of General Staff that Israel has ever known” during a
farewell gathering of the General Staff on Monday at Beit Hanassi.
the key architects of the defense establishment, Peres told Ashkenazi that it
had been his privilege to know all 18 of Ashkenazi’s predecessors, and looking
back, he was in a position to a make a true assessment of all of
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Turning to face Ashkenazi, Peres said, “Gabi, your contribution to
the security of Israel is unique, excellent and praiseworthy. You were one of
the best chiefs of General Staff that Israel has ever known.
This time, I
Peres recalled that in 1996, when, in his capacity as prime
minister and defense minister, he had promoted Ashkenazi to the rank of
major-general, there had been no doubt in his mind that Ashkenazi would one day
be the chief of General Staff.
Peres’s impression of Ashkenazi at that
time was that he was daring but cool-headed; that he knew how to tread the fine
balance between strategy and tactics; that he was beloved by his commanders and
officers alike; that he paid attention to details, yet saw the bigger picture;
and that values were no less important to him than deeds.
The four years
in which Ashkenazi served as IDF chief were fraught with new challenges, said
Peres. Terrorism had to be fought not only on the ground, but also from the air
and the sea; new methods of fighting had to be employed, and new coalitions had
to be formed.
Ashkenazi had also had to expand his horizons from a
regional to a global concept, as a result of which he formed many close
relationships with commanders in other countries and was able to repair
relations that had been damaged in the wake of the Second Lebanon War and
Israel’s operations in Gaza.
“He restored the morale of soldiers, the
confidence of the nation and the feeling of the government that there was
someone on whom it could rely,” the president said.
For his part,
Ashkenazi thanked Peres in his opening remarks for his personal contribution
over so many years to the defense establishment and to the IDF.
“I do not
stand alone when I salute you,” he said, including all soldiers in all branches
of the IDF who were well aware that no one had left as deep an imprint within
the army, or had done as much to create an Israeli defense force. It is a
contribution that touches every aspect of the IDF, said Ashkenazi.
expressed appreciation for the president’s personal support, for his
ever-willing ear, for his wisdom and for a shoulder to lean on.
declared that he was completing his tour of duty proud and satisfied that the
IDF was in the safest and most professional of hands.
successor-designate Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz was not present, because, according to
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu, until his appointment was finalized,
Gantz was not a member of the General Staff forum.
Without naming Gantz,
Peres nonetheless offered his “informal” good wishes and congratulations, and
said that when it was appropriate, he would congratulate him
Peres presented Ashkenazi with a small desktop bust of Israel’s
first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, engraved with the inscription: “To Gabi,
who walks in his footsteps with courage, with daring and with valor.”