PM calls feuding generals to order

Ashkenazi: Galant document investigation publicity "hurts us all."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 18, 2010 19:49
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)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began efforts to end the internal fighting among the IDF’s top brass and Defense Minister Ehud Barakn on Wednesday, when he issued his first statement since the story about the socalled “Galant document” broke nearly two weeks ago.

Netanyahu met with Barak to discuss the ramifications of the document and is scheduled to meet with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi in the coming days. He called on the IDF brass to “stop dealing with the investigation” and to continue to cooperate with the Defense Ministry.

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“I expect the top ranks of the military and the security establishment to continue to work together and cooperate on behalf of Israel’s security,” the prime minister said.

Sources close to Netanyahu said he felt pressured to comment on the affair due to reports that relations inside the General Staff had deteriorated to a new nadir.

“The prime minister does not believe it has gotten to the point where the functioning of the army has been hurt, but he wants to remove any doubts, because he bears overall responsibility,” a Netanyahu associate said.

Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu’s media adviser, denied a report on Channel 2 that Barak had tried to persuade the prime minister not to release a statement about the scandal.

The defense minister has made a point of not commenting on the affair.

Netanyahu spoke with Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday and asked him to speed up the police investigation.

Publicity from the police probe into the affair “hurts us all,” Ashkenazi said on Wednesday in his first public remarks regarding the document, which is the center of a row over the selection of his succesor as IDF chief.

“This affair hurts every individual involved,” Ashkenazi said during the graduation ceremony for the 21st class of the IDF’s Command and Staff College in Tel Aviv.

“The worst part of this affair is that it affects our most important asset... the belief and support of the people of Israel, which we come from and whom we are responsible for protecting.”

Ashkenazi’s remarks came a day after he confessed to having had a copy of the document in his possession over a month before the story broke on Channel 2. IDF officers continued on Wednesday to question Ashkenazi’s motives for not handing over the document to the attorney-general or the military advocate-general and instead storing it in a drawer in his office.

Ashkenazi said that the IDF needed to continue its mission of defending the State of Israel, and at the same time to prove that it was worthy of the public’s faith.

He said that the army was cooperating with the police investigation.

“We have confidence in the Israel Police and the law enforcement agencies that they will uncover the truth as soon as possible,” he said. “If a flaw is found, it will be dealt with immediately.”

One question on which many officers speculated was how the affair would affect the race to replace Ashkenazi in February, after media reports claimed on Wednesday that at least two of the contenders for the top job – Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen.

Benny Gantz and OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot – had also been aware of the document but had not come forward.

If the document is a forgery, as police now assume, then it is possible that OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant – the victim of the alleged conspirators – will be appointed to the post.

On the other hand, Barak might prefer to appoint an officer who is not at all involved in the affair, possibly one of the two candidates initially believed to have less of a chance of winning – OC Central Command Avi Mizrahi or Maj.- Gen. Gadi Shamni, the military attaché in Washington.

According to Channel 1, both Galant and Eizenkot were questioned by police on Wednesday, as was a close friend of Ashkenazi’s who may have played a significant role in the scandal.

In his first comments about the affair, Gantz told Channel 2 during a visit to Germany that the army could examine itself.

“The IDF bears on its shoulders the weight of the nation and a tremendous responsibility,” he said.

“We must act out of this responsibility, and therefore we must hasten to examine ourselves.”


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