Criticism is mounting in the defense establishment of the IDF unit that provides security for Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi after one of its members was arrested over the weekend for allegedly attempting to rape a woman in the latest of a series of events embroiling the elite unit in controversy.
On Tuesday, the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court extended the remand of Capt. A, one of Ashkenazi's personal security guards who was arrested early Saturday morning after he allegedly tried raping a woman after his bachelor party at the Tel Aviv Port.
Capt. A is a member of a unit called the General Staff Security Unit which is responsible for protecting the chief of staff as well as other generals that require protection pending regular security assessments.
The team of bodyguards was established around 10 years ago, is currently commanded by a lieutenant-colonel who is a former Navy Seal and trains according to Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) standards.
The rape allegations, while not directly connected to the unit, once again cast a damning light on the unit and brought some defense officials to wonder why the IDF required its own security guards and could not use the Shin Bet's unit which provides security for the prime minister, president and several ministers.
"Why does the IDF require its own unit," asked one official. "It appears to be superfluous."
This is not the first time the unit has come up in a scandal. In September, the Shin Bet revealed it had arrested an Israeli-Arab who was recruited by Hizbullah to gather intelligence on Ashkenazi. The Israeli-Arab worked out in the same country club in Kfar Saba as the chief of staff.
At the time, the unit came under criticism for allowing Ashkenazi to work out in a public club where he could be easily targeted. The Shin Bet, for example, does not allow the prime minister to work out at a public health club. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert exercised almost daily at a special health club located in the Shin Bet's Jerusalem headquarters. The chief of staff is the second-most-guarded official in Israel, a senior IDF officer said.
In August, the IDF revealed that it had arrested a soldier who stole Ashkenazi's credit card while doing guard duty on the floor of his office in the Kirya. The soldier was not a member of the elite unit but the unit came under criticism.
IDF officers rejected the criticism and said that the unit had an exemplary track record, adding that if Capt. A was in fact guilty of the rape allegations that should not reflect on the unit.
A, one officer said, served for two years as the prime minister's security guard and was a member of the elite Duvdevan Unit. He recently returned to the IDF and went through the Officer's Training Course which he finished as valedictorian.