Ashkenazi seen to have bright political future

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 24, 2010 03:10

Politicians already talking about Ashkenazi in Knesset wearing suit and tie.

3 minute read.



IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi speaks publicly for the first time on Wednesday.

Ashkenazi 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)

IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi’s replacement was only named Sunday, but politicians were already talking on Monday about how soon they will see Ashkenazi in the Knesset wearing a suit and tie.

Ashkenazi has consistently been Israel’s most popular public official, according to polls taken since he was appointed to head the army by Labor Party defense minister Amir Peretz three-and-ahalf years ago.

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The so-called Galant Document scandal that sullied his image over the past two weeks did him unexpectedly little damage.

According to a Dahaf Institute poll published over the weekend in Yediot Aharonot, 63 percent of respondents said the scandal did not effect their view of Ashkenazi. The percentage who said the episode strengthened their trust in him was 17% while only 12% said the opposite. By contrast, 37% said the scandal harmed their trust in Defense Minister Ehud Barak while only six percent said it strengthened it.

Should Ashkenazi leave his post on time in February 2011, he would not be eligible to run for Knesset in the next election, which is currently set for October 22, 2013, due to a three-year cooling-off period for top security officials, which passed in the Knesset in March 2007. In the unlikely scenario that the Knesset finishes out its term, Ashkenazi could run if he left his post within the next two months.

But Kadima and Labor MKs already announced Sunday that they were working on legislation to shorten the coolingoff period to a year and a half.

What is already being referred to as the “Ashkenazi bill” would replace the three-year cooling-off period law, which was known as the “Halutz bill,” because it aimed to delay the political career of Lt.-Gen.

Dan Halutz, Ashkenazi’s predecessor at the helm of the IDF.

“The army tests decisionmaking and Gabi Ashkenazi has proven he has the proper skills and abilities,” said Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, who initiated the bill. “He repaired the army and strengthened it.

There is a place for him in politics if he wants it, but it’s his decision, and I am not his spokesman.”

Hasson said three years was disproportionate to the much shorter cooling-off period for state employees and the businessmen and journalists, who currently do not have to wait at all.

When asked if he wanted Ashkenazi to join his party, he said: “I want all good people to come to Kadima, and Ashkenazi is clearly a good man.”

Bill co-sponsor Eitan Cabel (Labor) said he did not want Ashkenazi to come to his party, because he believed Ashkenazi deserved better than the crumbling Labor Party. But he said he would be happy to be in the same party as Ashkenazi provided their views are similar.

“If he joins politics, he will be welcomed,” Cabel said. “He is clearly fitting, even thought I have no idea what his political views are.”

According to the so-called Halutz law, which was sponsored by Yuval Steinitz (Likud) and Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), IDF officers with a rank of major general and lieutenant general, senior officials in the Shin Bet and the Mossad, and Israel Police and Prisons Authority wardens with a rank of major general or above must wait three years before contending for a seat in the Knesset or being appointed a minister.

Before the law passed, they only had to wait six months.

Steinitz said the date of his bill’s passage was a “historic day for Israeli democracy.”

He made a prediction at the time that has not borne fruit: “I have no doubt that now the process of politicizing the IDF will stop,” he said.

Vilan said Monday that the new bill was “cheap populism.”

He said a three-year cooling off period was necessary to prevent generals from getting involved in politics while they were still in the army.

“A year-and-a-half would not be enough because the generals would have to start campaigning the day they took off their uniform or even before,” Vilan said.


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