Knesset Strikes Down Bill to Let ex-IDF Chiefs Run for Knesset Sooner

'Gabi Ashkenazi’ bill would have lowered the time period retired defense officials must wait before running for government.

Alon Ron

On Wednesday the Knesset voted down the bill that was intended to enable retired senior defense officials, including former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Benny Gantz, to run for election to the Knesset. The bill called for the cooling-off period to be reduced from three years to just a year and a half. 52 MKs voted against and 25 voted in favor, with coalition discipline against the bill’s advancement.

Passage of the bill would have enabled the two retired chiefs of staff, as well as top figures from the police, the prison service and the Mossad to enter politics in the upcoming election season. The bill was submitted by MK Eyal Ben-Reuven, himself a major general in the reserves, and could have threatened the leadership of his party chairman, Isaac Herzog.

“The government’s cowardly response to good people with experience and knowledge of security raises a big question as to the ministers’ judgment and their desire to see better politics," Ben-Reuven said.

Before 2007, the cooling-off period was just six months. Then the Knesset passed a bill extending it to three years. In the eight years since then, the number of former security establishment officials entering politics has declined.

“Making the cooling-off period six times longer is unreasonable since it prevents a high-quality group of public servants from entering the political arena to represent and serve the public, and exceeds the cooling-off period set by law for other groups, such as 100 days for senior civil servants,” stated the explanatory material in support of the bill.

Security and military officials are ending their military careers at a later age. Practically speaking, they are often prevented from running for the Knesset by the prospect of embarking on a second career following their discharge so late in life.