(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The political scene was abuzz with speculation on Thursday about the possibility of former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi entering the political fray, following a report that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein plans to close the criminal investigation against him.
A close ally of Ashkenazi said that the former army boss has yet to receive official notice that the Harpaz case – in which he and other senior officers were investigated for allegedly trying to undermine then-defense minister Ehud Barak’s choice to succeed Ashkenazi – is now closed, and if so, to what extent.
Therefore it is too early to say where his future lies.
He added, however, that “politicians have talked to him. Everyone wants him and is trying to woo him.”
The source said he still does not know if Ashkenazi will join politics if the probe is fully closed, but if he does, he said it would probably be to join a party on the Center-Left.
Politics could be a way for Ashkenazi to clear his name, so that the thing he is associated with is not a criminal investigation.
Should he choose to run for a position, his most likely options are to run for head of Labor against current leader Isaac Herzog and other possible contenders such as MK Shelly Yacimovich and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, join Yesh Atid, or form a party of his own.
Last month, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid told Channel 2’s Meet the Press that any party would be lucky to have Ashkenazi – including Yesh Atid – after the former general met with Lapid’s close adviser Hillel Kobrinsky.
Former MK and OC IDF Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern, who is next in line for the Knesset on Yesh Atid’s list and a friend of Ashkenazi, told Army Radio on Thursday that the former chief of staff is a centrist and expressed hope that he would join Yesh Atid.
“We talked about him joining the party. I think any party would want him,” Stern said. “I trust Gabi Ashkenazi that he is worthy of being a leader in this country. [The investigation was] a targeted strike.”
Before entering politics, Stern stated, Ashkenazi would want the public to know that he is clean of all charges.
On Wednesday night, Channel 2 reported that Weinstein will announce that the case is closed in the coming weeks.
In fall 2014, police recommended that the attorney-general indict Ashkenazi, former IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avi Benyahau, cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit, Ashkenazi’s former chief of staff Col. (res.) Erez Viner, former Golani Reconnaissance Battalion commander Col. Gabi Siboni and Lt.-Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz.
Police rejected Barak’s allegation that Ashkenazi and the other officers tried to overthrow the defense minister and that Ashkenazi or the others were connected to Harpaz’s alleged forgery of a document that started the probe, and they believed that the document was genuine.
In addition, police rejected allegations that Ashkenazi and the others’ spying on and attempts to undermine Barak were illegal, although they said it was unethical.
The police’s recommendation was to charge Ashkenazi with two counts of breach of public trust and illegally revealing public material.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.
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