Ashkenazi refused pleas to run for Labor chief

MK Ben-Eliezer, Histadrut head Eini attempt to persuade former IDF chief to run, saying he is the only hope to unseat Yacimovich.

June 7, 2013 11:58
2 minute read.
Former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi in CNN interview

Former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi 370. (photo credit: Screenshot CNN)


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Senior officials in Labor recently tried to persuade former chief of staff Lt.-Gen.

(res.) Gabi Ashkenazi to join the party, and to run for its leadership in the next primary against current chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich.

Ashkenazi has reportedly rejected the idea of running for the time being.

Veteran MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer spearheaded the attempt to recruit him.

Histadrut labor federation head Ofer Eini was also involved in the efforts.

Ben-Eliezer held several discussions with Ashkenazi and tried to get him to hasten his entry into politics and join the party now.

According to Ben-Eliezer, only Ashkenazi could make Labor MKs Isaac Herzog, Eitan Cabel and Erel Margalit drop out of the leadership race and rally around him in his bid to topple Yacimovich.

Running against more than one opponent would enable Yacimovich to win the upcoming primary and ensure her control of the party in the next national election, Ben-Eliezer argued.

According to Labor’s rules, the primary is to take place no more than 14 months after this past January’s general election, which means the leadership race is expected to take place in April 2014.

Ben-Eliezer tried to convince Ashkenazi that the time was ripe to join the party and told him that if he hesitated he would risk missing a historic opportunity.

Ben-Eliezer exerted intense pressure that reached a high point after the Labor convention meeting in April.

Ashkenazi refused pleas to run for party chief for a number of reasons: He is waiting for the IDF investigation into the Harpaz forged document affair to conclude (an investigation remains open against him and Col. (res.) Erez Weiner); his obligations to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, with whom he was involved in intensive negotiations before January’s election; and the fact that his statutory “cooling-off” period will only end next year, so he feels entering politics at this point would be premature.

It is thought that if the former chief of staff decides to enter politics, he will do so at the last minute when the conditions are ripe, and not a minute earlier.

Ashkenazi’s legally mandated cooling-off period between his military and political careers ends in February 2014.

Yacimovich considered initiating an expedited Labor primary this summer or fall, but decided against it and has not set a date for the race.

Meanwhile, supporters of Ashkenazi have set up a Facebook page pushing him to run for Labor leader. He currently serves as chairman of a company that searches for oil and gas reserves.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that was conducted during The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York in April, Ashkenazi said “the biggest risk to the State of Israel is its own internal issues. Specifically mentioning the haredim, he said the nation must battle the division between sectors and strive for a more cohesive society, “the way we used to be 30, 40 years ago.”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

Translated by Nathan Wise.

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