By YAAKOV KATZ
National Security Adviser Uzi Arad met with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi late Tuesday, and expressed regret for words spoken in a closed room that were not intended to be publicized in the media.
Arad, according to the statement, made clear that he did not mean any personal insult to Ashkenazi, whose work he respects.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, according to the statement, expressed appreciation for Arad's step and for his work as the country's national security adviser.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak came to Ashkenazi's defense on Tuesday after Arad leveled criticism at the officer over his support for the proposed Gilad Schalit prisoner swap.
On Monday night, an unnamed official in the Prime Minister's Office was quoted by Channel 2 as saying that Ashkenazi failed as commander of the IDF by not succeeding in creating a viable rescue operation that would have prevented the need for a mass prisoner swap. According to news reports on Tuesday, the unnamed source was Arad.
Ashkenazi is known to be a proponent of the swap with Hamas. Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Arad are said to be opposed to the deal.
"Ashkenazi is behaving like the chairman of the IDF parent committee and not as should be expected from the IDF's top commander," the source, described as senior, was quoted as saying.
Barak's office released a statement backing Ashkenazi, who he called a great commander and soldier "whose views coincide with IDF ethics.
"The attack by the so-called senior official are worthy of every condemnation," Barak said.
The Prime Minister's Office also distanced itself from the report on Channel 2 and issued a statement claiming that Netanyahu "appreciates Ashkenazi's position with regard to retrieving Schalit alive and well. The chief of staff's position stems from a clear concern for Israel's security as do the positions of the other members of the forum," the statement read.
The IDF Spokesman's Office issued a statement in which it said it was unable to currently comment on Ashkenazi's position on the proposed Schalit deal. According to the statement, IDF commanders will continue to voice their opinions in professional meetings "without shame or fear."
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