The Napoleon of Or Yehuda
The day after the state comptroller submitted the draft of a report that is highly critical of him, Or Yehuda named a street after former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
It's not too hard to imagine what would have ensued here if the Or Yehuda municipality had named a street this week after Ehud Barak. The defense minister would have been accused of megalomania and depicted as Napoleon Bonaparte annointing himself Caesar. There would have been huge headlines in every newspaper and sharp-tongued commentators on every television channel arguing that Barak is obtuse, condescending, aggressive and cynical.
His poor judgment regarding Ehud Barak Boulevard would have been seen as unmitigated proof that the man is totally uninhibited. The monster of Akirov Towers would have been tarred, feathered and declared public enemy No. 1.
But for former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, it's fine.
David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin didn't merit having streets named for them while they were alive. Yigael Yadin, Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan didn't merit being immortalized while they were alive. But Ashkenazi did.
In what was incredible timing - the day after the state comptroller submitted the draft of a report that is highly critical of him - Gabi Ashkenazi inaugurated Gabi Ashkenazi Boulevard in Or Yehuda. The modest officer, who was always far from the limelight, was accorded the honor of being the first Israeli citizen to unveil a street sign bearing his own name.
Ashkenazi is not a bad guy. He was a fearless warrior, who served his homeland loyally. He was an intelligent and charismatic commander, who led his men into battle with good judgment and level-headedness. But as chief of staff he found himself subordinate to four elected officials that the public considered illegitimate - prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu, and defense ministers Amir Peretz and Barak.
Thus the esteemed chief of staff went astray. He developed a deep disdain for the political echelons and often acted rudely toward them. He terrified the army, controlled the media and blocked any criticism. After he built himself an image as a general/deity, he started to believe that he was one. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi became Bonaparte, acting as if he was above the government, above the law, and above all norms.
The draft report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss tells only part of the Shakespearean story of our 19th chief of General Staff. Here's the full story: In 2010, the commander of the IDF declared war on his ministerial superior in the elected government. The IDF commander allowed his colonels to gather embarrassing information about his ministerial superior. In at least one instance, the IDF commander specifically instructed one of these colonels to disseminate this embarrassing material.
The IDF commander plotted against the Southern Command commander. The IDF commander discharged outstanding officers for not telling the truth while he himself repeatedly failed to tell the truth. The IDF commander corrupted the army he was meant to rehabilitate and rebelled against the government he was meant to serve.
The Napoleon from Or Yehuda's biggest asset right now is the Napoleon from Akirov. Because Ashkenazi positioned himself as the defense minister's top opponent, he has the sympathy of many people who despise Barak.
But the State of Israel is soon to mark its 64th anniversary. A country that's 64 years old is meant to be a serious country. A serious country can't let go of the fact that its chief of staff rebelled against the elected government.
Even those who believe that Barak is vile and Ashkenazi is a sweetie can't ignore the shocking facts revealed by the state comptroller. If even now Israel doesn't thoroughly clean out the stables at army headquarters in the Kirya in Tel Aviv, it will quickly slide down the slippery slope that leads beyond democracy. If even now we shut our eyes, our future will be one filled with military juntas, who collect incriminating information and spread incriminating information and block criticism and sow fear.
The future will be one of belligerent generals who name streets after themselves when they are still alive.