Could Exonerated Former IDF Chief of Staff Be Israel's Next Prime Minister?

A stained reputation is not going to obstruct the former army chief's way to the highest position of all.

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Illustration by Eran Wolkowski.
Illustration by Eran Wolkowski.
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Even after five years of obsessive and tedious media coverage of the developments and outgrowths of the Galant/Harpaz/Ashkenazi affair, the reasonable viewer of Wednesday night’s news broadcasts probably rolled his eyes and wondered: So who the heck is the real Gabi Ashkenazi?

Was the former army chief of General Staff a victim or a villain? A politician in uniform or an officer and a gentleman? Perhaps the bad guy was Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who broke his own record for procrastination and deigned to close the case 10 days before he leaves his position, and wrote two public reports with different content, which he gave to media outlets in accordance with the relevant journalist’s inclinations.

Now, with the cloud of criminal prosecution removed from Ashkenazi’s head, he is suddenly considered worthy of contending for the highest position of all – that of prime minister. That the report accused him of conduct unbecoming an officer of his rank, particularly with regard to the collecting of incriminating material against his superior, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, will not be an obstacle – not in today’s Israel, anyway.

In countries with proper norms of conduct, a retired general with two incisive and scathing reports by the state comptroller and the attorney general on his back would be pleased to be free to make lots of money and would stay far away from the public arena.  Not here. The public’s memory is short, and its patience with details limited. They will forget and forgive, if they deem it necessary.

In the end, it all depends on the man himself – on his ambitions, on the fire that burns in his heart, on the desire for revenge, or alternately, to do good. As far as we know, Ashkenazi’s desire to conquer the summit still exists, though no decision has been made.

Former IDF chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Haste in this case would be the devil’s work. He must rest, cool off, and let the dust settle. A few days ago, when he already knew that the case would be closed shortly, he told someone that politics doesn’t speak to him, and he’d prefer to go in to business. Over these five-plus years, he has indeed been scratched, bruised, and scarred far more than during the many military exercises and operations he took part in, whether he ate sand and scorpions, or just canned meat.

If Ashkenazi decides to go for it, where will he go? Being No. 2 to Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, who he studied in numerous conversations (which were revealed here a few months ago and caused a rupture between the two men and their associates), is off the agenda.

A scenario in which he contends for the chairmanship of the Labor Party seems daunting. That party is known for making its chairmen’s life miserable and devouring its leaders – and the brand isn’t what it used to be, anyway.

The third option, to start a new party, yet another party that will position itself in the center so he can try to become the leader of a center-left bloc in the next elections, is presumably also on the Ashkenazi family dining room table.

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