Until recently, Gabi Ashkenazi was the great white hope of the “peace camp,” who eventually joined the “change camp.” What rejoicing there was in the cockpit when Ashkenazi decided to join the leadership of Kahol Lavan. They said that only the rugged soldier from the satirical TV program “Eretz Nehederet” (“A Wonderful Country”) could beat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and fill his shoes. And two years later, Ashkenazi’s announcement that he has decided to “take a time-out from politics” is being received with indifference. This is the most welcome decision in his short political-diplomatic career, which was buried in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Ashkenazi’s service in the ministry reminds us that an outstanding general is not necessarily a successful statesman.
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One of the main roles of a foreign ministry in a democratic country embroiled in a conflict is to present to the government the diplomatic and public image cost of perpetuating that conflict. And therefore, the man in charge of Israel’s international public relations and of maintaining its credibility should have prevented the maneuver in which foreign correspondents were misled during operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza. But the army brass ignored the Foreign Affairs Ministry. After all, the minister is one of theirs, what does he have to do with the tie-wearing diplomats who get upset by every utterance from “the world.”
Ashkenazi is angry at the French, at the Europeans who donate – oy vey – classrooms for Palestinian children who lack basic rights. Last week he summoned the French ambassador to Israel for a reprimand, to protest the words of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, on a national radio station. Le Drian dared to say that perpetuating the status quo in the territories is likely to lead to signs of apartheid, adding that the way to prevent that is to promote the two-state solution. Ashkenazi claimed that the French minister’s words “are baseless and far from the reality,” and not only that, but they “reward extremist elements and terror organizations, above all, Hamas.”
Really? Here’s a small taste of the signs of apartheid in the territories, which were cooked up in the kitchen of the foreign minister. (For his contribution to this situation he received a medal from the Regavim movement founded by far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich, which is working towards a Jewish takeover of Area C of the West Bank.) Last summer Ashkenazi informed the European Union that he is opposed to any European activity there (building schools and clinics for Palestinians, paving access roads, laying down pipes and digging water reservoirs and repairing electricity grids).
The minister also noted that Israel rejects out of hand any demand for the payment of compensation for demolition or for confiscating equipment donated by the EU countries (including France) to the residents. His reason: This “does not respect Israeli procedure for granting building permits.” If it weren’t sad, it would be funny. Because the former chief of staff has firsthand familiarity with the meaning of “Israeli procedure for granting a construction permit” to Palestinians in Area C. From 2016 to 2018, 1.4 percent of Palestinian requests for building permits were approved. On the other hand, from 2019 to 2020 the Palestinians received 159 demolition orders, compared to 28 issued to settlers.
It’s not clear how support for the two-state solution and a warning against turning the military occupation regime into an apartheid regime are “a reward for extremist elements and terror organizations.” They reap rewards from actions such as expelling Palestinian refugees from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. The foreign minister gets a salary from the public so that he will demand that the government prevent this moral crime, if only because of the damage it causes Israel’s international status and image.
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But nobody has heard a word from Ashkenazi about this despicable act, the product of the post-Kahanists. The great reward for Islamist fanatics, Iran and the enemies of peace is not a European foreign minister telling the truth, but rather the throwing of stun grenades at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
It’s a shame that our heroic foreign minister didn’t have the courage to tell the public that the status quo is a surefire recipe for apartheid.
Ashkenazi did the right thing when he retired early from politics. It’s fortunate that the rotation government fell apart before another general, Miri Regev, had a chance to enter the office in Givat Ram.