Labor leader says he would welcome Ashkenazi in party

Call follows similar invitation from Yesh Atid head Lapid.

Gabi Ashkenazi (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Gabi Ashkenazi
Former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi should enter politics with Labor, the party’s head and opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, said on Monday.
In his first comments since a report that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein plans to close the criminal investigation against Ashkenazi was released, Herzog said that he would welcome him joining Labor, even though it would mean the former general challenging him for the leadership of the party.
“I would like to see anyone who enters politics, especially someone as fit as him, join Labor and help win the next election,” Herzog told Army Radio, adding that “Gabi Ashkenazi is a good man.”
Herzog looked for a senior security figure to run for Knesset on the Zionist Union slate ahead of the March 17 election, but did not find one. Instead, former IDF Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who did not run, was presented as the party’s candidate for defense minister if it were to win the election.
Ashkenazi could not run, because he was still being investigated in 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 at the helm of the IDF.
Sources close to Ashkenazi said he has yet to receive official notice confirming the report that the case against him was closed, but that he hopes to be cleared soon.
A close confidant of Ashkenazi said that he decided long ago not to decide his political future until his legal troubles were completely behind him. The source said that once that happens, he would have a tough choice between running for Labor leader or accepting an offer from Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to run as his No. 2 in the next election.
“The easy choice would be to go with Lapid, because he wouldn’t have to run in primaries; but he may choose the tougher route in Labor,” the source said.
Herzog blasted Lapid in the Army Radio interview, saying that the difference between them was that Lapid handles everything in the press while he works hard in the political field.
A source close to Herzog denied that the Labor leader had recently met with Ashkenazi for three hours. “The report has no basis,” the Herzog associate said.