Gabi Ashkenazi - Moti Milrod - 16122011
Gabi Ashkenazi Photo by Moti Milrod
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The cooling-off period required of former army officers who wish to enter politics would be slashed from three years to just one under a bill submitted this week by Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich and fellow Labor MK Isaac Herzog.

The bill would apply to officers of the rank of major general and up and their equivalents in the police and the Prison Service, as well as former heads of the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad.

"The party is taking off," Herzog said in explaining the motives for the move. "We think there will be elections in 2012 and we are interested in bringing many good people into our ranks.

"It is not reasonable that only a certain group should be held to this cooling-off requirement," he continued. "This is a group of good people who are being discriminated against. Does someone who has served the country for 30 years need to be punished?"

Today, after the departure of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Labor is short on with members with high-ranking defense experience. Nevertheless, Herzog insisted that so far, no talks are being held with any particular officer, nor does Labor have anyone particular in mind.

Among the people to whom the law could be relevant are former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin, former Police Commissioner David Cohen, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Harel.

The chances of the bill actually passing are considered slim, since the coalition is expected to oppose it. A similar bill submitted in the past by MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor ) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima ), which proposed cutting the waiting period for senior officers to a year and a half, went nowhere.

But Herzog believes his bill could muster support. "I don't understand why the parties in the Knesset, apart from Likud, wouldn't approve a thing like this," he said. "It's a natural and logical step."

A poll conducted for Haaretz earlier this month found that Labor would have won 19 Knesset seats had elections been held then, making it the second largest party after Likud. This was a slight decline relative to the previous survey, held right after Yachimovich's election as party leader, when Labor would have won 22 seats. The poll was conducted by the Dialog company under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs.