Ashkenazi's protection unit comes under fire

General Staff Security Unit shouldn't have let top officer work out in country club, official says.

ashkenazi and bodyguards (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ashkenazi and bodyguards
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Defense officials on Monday criticized the military unit that provides security for IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi for allowing him to work out at a Kfar Saba country club, with hundreds of members, including the Israeli Arab who had been recruited by Hizbullah. Called the General Staff Security Unit, the team of bodyguards was established around 10 years ago. The team trains according to Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) standards. The team, led by a lieutenant-colonel who is a former Navy Seal, allowed Ashkenazi to train almost every weekend at the country club. "He should not have been working out there in the open," one official said. The Shin Bet, for example, does not allow the prime minister to work out at a public health club. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert exercized almost daily at a special health club located in the Shin Bet's Jerusalem headquarters. The chief of staff is the second-most-guarded official in Israel, a senior IDF officer said. According to the officer, Ashkenazi trained at the club early in the morning when no one was usually there. A guard was also always present in a nearby room, the officer said. The officer said that the security unit had recently conducted a major drill, overseen by the Shin Bet, and had practiced the exact scenario of an assassination attempt at the country club. The unit even kept a monthly report of Ashkenazi's arrivals at the club.