'Ashkenazi bill’ likely to be nixed by ministers

Bill would shorten the cooling-off period currently required for top security officials from three years to a year and a half.

ashkenazi 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
ashkenazi 311
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
A bill that would allow outgoing IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to run in the next Knesset election is expected to suffer a setback on Monday, when it will likely be voted down in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
The bill would shorten the cooling-off period currently required for top security officials from three years to a year and a half. This would enable Ashkenazi, who will leave his post next month, to compete in an election held as early as August 2012.
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The next general election is currently set for October 22, 2013, but it is likely to be advanced, as almost every Israeli election has been.
MKs Yoel Hason (Kadima) and Eitan Cabel (Labor), who sponsored the bill, were unable to come up with a single minister out of the 19 on the committee who supports the legislation.
The most adamant opponent of the bill is Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who initiated the current law, which extended the coolingoff period from six months.
His bill, which passed in March 2007 was referred to as the “Halutz bill,” because it delayed the political career of former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz, who entered Kadima last month.
Steinitz will be joined in opposition by Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor, Minister-without-Portfolio Michael Eitan, and most likely also Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie Begin.
“I don’t know of Gabi Ashkenazi’s plans after his release from the army,” Begin said. “He is a terrific person, who will certainly succeed in whatever he does. Personal legislation is generally undesirable and I am wary of such bills, but I will see tomorrow what the bill says and perhaps a supporter of the bill can persuade me otherwise.”
An Israel Beiteinu spokesman said that his party’s ministers would also oppose the bill because they are not in favor of “personalized” legislation.
Most of the ministers on the committee do not intend to participate in the vote.
Cabel suggested that ministers were afraid to vote in favor, either because they saw generals as political competition or because they did not want to upset Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who sees Ashkenazi as a rival.
Hason and Cabel said they hoped that even if the government decides to oppose the bill, it could still pass in the Knesset. They criticized the cabinet for bringing it to a ministerial vote instead of straight to the Knesset.
“I think it’s the Knesset that has to decide the bill’s fate,” Hasson said. “I hope Knesset members are allowed to vote according to their conscience and their principles.”
Hasson said three years was disproportionate to the much shorter cooling-off period for state employees, while businessmen and journalists do not have to wait at all.
When asked if he wanted Ashkenazi to join his party, he said, “I want all good people to come to Kadima, and Ashkenazi is clearly a good man.”
Cabel said he did not want Ashkenazi to come to his party, because he believed Ashkenazi deserved better than the crumbling Labor Party. But he said he would be happy to be in the same party as Ashkenazi provided their views are similar.
“If he joins politics, he will be welcomed,” Cabel said.
“He is clearly worthy, even thought I have no idea what his political views are.”