Female MKs attack Ashkenazi for lewd reference to woman journalist

Former IDF chief of staff under fire for making "sexist" comment; Likud's Hotovely says he's "unfit to pursue public leadership."

Ashkenazi with Orly Vilna’i and Guy Meroz (photo credit: Sara Miller)
Ashkenazi with Orly Vilna’i and Guy Meroz
(photo credit: Sara Miller)
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi came under fire from female MKs on Tuesday for making what they called a sexist comment to Channel 10 morning news co-anchor Orly Vilna’i.
The web site Walla News revealed that at President Shimon Peres’s birthday celebration in Jerusalem last month, Ashkenazi told Vilna’i that she was an “achla kusit” – a crude slang term referring to a part of the female anatomy.
Ashkenazi confirmed to the website that he had made the statement, explaining that it was made in a friendly conversation with his wife Ronit, Vilna’i, and her husband, Channel 10 morning news co-anchor Guy Meroz.
“I am sorry if any harm was done,” Ashkenazi said.
Meroz complained about the comment in the Ma’ariv newspaper. In the column, he attributed the quote to a “very high-ranking security official” who was at the conference, which led to speculation, because the other three security officials who were at the conference are still in the IDF.
Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, who heads the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, said public figures had an important role to play in preventing harmful expressions from becoming commonplace in conversations.
“I am glad that former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi immediately realized that expressions in that style have no place in public discourse and hurried to apologize,” Lavie said.
Lavie’s predecessor as head of the committee, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) went further, warning that he should not be allowed to enter politics.
“It is a shameful situation that a man who headed the Israel Defense Forces and wants to be one of [Israel’s] leaders speaks in such a cheap and disgraceful way to a woman,” Hotovely said. “A man who has not internalized the laws against sexual harassment is unfit to pursue public leadership.” Likud MK Gila Gamliel called Ashkenazi’s comment “horrible and sexist” and said it “proves his dark outlook against women.”
Ashkenazi is expected to enter politics after a legally mandated post-army cooling-off period ends in February. He is considered a likely future candidate for Labor Party chairman.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and other Labor MKs made a point of not responding to Ashkenazi’s statement.
A Meretz spokesman said the fact that his party was declining to respond had nothing to do with Ashkenazi’s politics.