Ashkenazi at farewell program: I prayed to see Gilad Schalit; Barak, Peres thank outgoing IDF chief for "excellent leadership."
By YAAKOV KATZ
“God should watch over him,” Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, referring to incoming chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz.The US military chief spoke on the sidelines of a farewell ceremony for outgoing IDF chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi in Tel Aviv, which was attended by the top echelons of the Israeli political and military world.RELATED:Analysis: Ashkenazi leaves a better prepared IDF Ashkenazi to hand over IDF to Gantz Mullen arrived in Israel on Sunday for a two-day visit that includes talks with Ashkenazi; Gantz, whose appointment was approved by the cabinet on Sunday morning; Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; President Shimon Peres; and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.Gantz becomes army chief on Monday.Mullen mentioned that he had been friendly with Gantz during the period the latter spent in Washington as the IDF attaché in the United States.“He will be good for the country and the region,” Mullen said.The event, held at Tel Aviv University, was attended by the top IDF commanders as well as senior politicians such as Netanyahu, Peres and Barak.AdvertisementDuring his speech, Ashkenazi said that despite all the friends and colleagues who were present at the event, he was disappointed not to see St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who is in Hamas captivity, in the crowd.“I prayed and hoped to see Gilad Schalit, whose dear parents Aviva and Noam I met for painful discussions,” Ashkenazi said.The IDF faces serious challenges over the coming years, he said.Gantz would be an “excellent chief of staff, ethical and full of accomplishments and experience,” Ashkenazi said.Barak publicly put aside his feud with the outgoing chief of General Staff, saying that Ashkenazi provided an important contribution to the strength of the IDF and the security of Israel.“This is not an evening of personal reflection,” Barak told Ashkenazi, “but an evening where we tell you, Gabi, thanks.”“Thanks for the service which you have provided, an important contribution to the strength of the IDF and the security of the country.Gabi brought along with him experience, talent, and in particular, the understanding that we must return to the fundamentals of military professionalism. We are prepared better than ever, and as a result, you deserve a big thank you. I wish you and your wife Ronit a good luck blessing in whatever you decide to do,” Barak added.Peres said that history would ultimately judge Ashkenazi’s term as chief of General Staff but that he is was sure that he would be remembered for restoring the people’s faith in the army and preparing the military for future challenges.“Even as we speak here the region is changing,” Peres said, extending his good wishes to the Egyptian people. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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