The defense minister wanted to topple the prime minister and succeed him. A journalist in the defense minister's camp received earth-shattering information about the prime minister from an air force captain. He published it, generating a criminal investigation that led to the resignation of the prime minister. The air force, like the entire army, was under the authority of the defense minister. The plot succeeded perhaps too well: The ruling party, headed by the defense minister who became acting prime minister, lost the elections, but the journalist got his reward. The new defense minister, formerly air force chief, offered him a government job, as his political adviser.
This thriller is almost like the fable of the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi's failed little revolt against Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The cast in this case: Shimon Peres as defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin as the prime minister. Col. (eventually ) Yoram Setter as the air force captain, Dan Margalit as the journalist and Ezer Weizman as the new defense minister. Everything happened, although the appointment of Margalit as a political adviser was thwarted due to opposition by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan.
The survivors of these events in 1977 will be angered by the interpretation of them as a plot. Peres certainly will. What they said was not true, that he was involved in the release of the story of the dollar bank account the Rabin family held in Washington. He did not know the end of the affair either.
When he returned home from a party at Abba Eban's house, another of Rabin's rivals, he turned on the television and was shocked to see Rabin, who had not bothered to inform him, announcing his resignation and that Peres would take his place. And what did the junior officer at the embassy in Washington who was the source of the story have in common with rivals of the prime minister? But every coincidence can be seen as a move made by a faction, preferably a military one.
Politicians are suspicious people. Every outstretched hand seems to hold a knife looking to plant itself in their back. If they had only wanted to help their fellow human being, they would nurse sick people in India, not climb on top of one another on the way to the top.
It is not surprising that Barak wove a story about Ashkenazi; what is strange is that he believes his version is persuasive. And this is after the police, based on a polygraph, exonerated Ashkenazi from the three main suspicions against him: he did not forge the Gallant letter, he did not know about the forgery and he did not act to get it published.
On the contrary - when Ashkenazi found out that the document was about to be aired, a few minutes before the news program that was to release it, and without realizing that it had come from his office, he urged the newscasters not to break the story.
Over the past few days, in an effort to turn over a new leaf in his relations with the military brass, first and foremost new Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Barak has backed off a bit from his direct accusations against Ashkenazi. Now he is focusing on Ashkenazi's overall responsibility for the acts of his subordinates.
Ashkenazi, according to Barak, is like U.S. Army Gen. (Ret. ) Stanley McChrystal, who was fired last year by President Barack Obama when after a drink in Paris, McChrystal and his aides mocked Obama and those close to him to a journalist.
The parallel is fairly crooked; Barak's counterpart, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, wanted to show compassion to McChrystal.
Barak is wrong if he hopes the state comptroller's report on the Harpaz affair, sharp as it may be, will hurt the political chances of citizen Ashkenazi. Its words, no matter how piercing they are, will have no effect, and after all, Ashkenazi will not be forced to resign from a post in which he no longer serves. The harsh words of the Or Commission on the actions of prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak regarding the killing of 13 Arab citizens during a riot in October 2000 did not prevent Barak from heading two factions (Labor and Atzmaut ) and holding the defense portfolio in two governments.
Ashkenazi already took advantage of most of his retirement leave in 2005 when he was not appointed chief of staff and retired from the army for a time. He now has about three months of silent service. In June he can express himself about people and issues, even if he cannot be elected to the Knesset nor be appointed a minister, due to the law mandating a "cooling-off period."
A cool Ashkenazi will be a dangerous Ashkenazi, particularly to Barak and Netanyahu. Young people just going into the army are charmed by him. The next chapters of "the plot" are worth waiting for.
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