What Is Ashkenazi Afraid Of?

Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. General (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, January 27, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

Kahol Lavan’s “cockpit” is getting weirder by the minute. Benny Gantz gives the impression of a basically good man, but beyond the touching feeling that he’s a nice guy caught in an unfamiliar situation he doesn’t entirely own, he’s not very coherent and generally doesn’t seem like someone who wants to or is capable of leading.

Yair Lapid, on the other hand, wants to very much, and unlike Gantz he has the political fighter’s spirit. But he’s simply unelectable, because he is worshiped by only one tribe of many in the Israeli jungle. It’s clear to anyone with a brain in their head that were it not for the repeat election, Lapid and his cult would have cut loose from Kahol Lavan and this will very likely happen after the election, probably over the dilemma of whether or not to join the government.

The clip he posted from the parking lot in Ramle where Ofir Hasday was stabbed to death, in which he associated Israelis’ parking problems with Benjamin Netanyahu’s problematic leadership, raises concerns for Moshe Ya’alon’s state of consciousness. It’s hard to decide if the clip is more eccentric than embarrassing. Maybe both. The fact that Kahol Lavan still gets 30 Knesset seats in the polls is tantamount to a miracle.

>> Read more: What an Israeli government of generals will bring | Opinion ■ Gantz and Ashkenazi: Failed businessmen? | Analysis

Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya'alon at a press conference, Tel Aviv, April 10, 2019.
Meged Gozani

In this mess there’s only one man with leadership potential and electability – Gabi Ashkenazi. On the face of it he crossed the anxiety Rubicon when he entered politics and concocted the connection between Gantz and Lapid. But it seems that so far he has waded only knee deep into the water, without immersing his entire body.

On election day, way back in April, I accompanied Ashkenazi and his entourage on a ballot box tour. His main strength is obvious: simple, winning charisma like fresh bread. In one polling booth in Ra’anana’s Lev Hapark neighborhood, which was dominated by Kahol Lavan activists, he stopped, turned to the activists who stood behind him and said: “Now we’re going to the ballot boxes on Hapalmach street. Bennet’s station. Let’s go.”

Ashkenazi lifted his forefinger in the air and all the Kahol Lavan nerds followed him.

How hungry the camp is for such a character. Just like that, with the broken syntax, the faulty pronunciation and the cigarette (Europa) between his fingers. I also saw his weakness, which people who have worked with him speak about. In one of the polling stations there were reports of faulty ballot slips. Within a second Ashkenazi started sweating, getting irritated and blaming people. Thin skin. Short fuse. He needs a second chance to do better.

Kahol Lavan's Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi.
Emil Salman

So far it’s unclear, maybe even to himself, if he wants to at all, and if he does, what is he so afraid of? Maybe he has skeletons in his closet that we don’t know about, but judging by what is known so far it seems that more than anything else Ashkenazi seems to be trapped inside some private anxiety film. The Harpaz affair that crushed him doesn’t really interest anyone except those who played a role in it and possibly a few crony journalists. Try sitting a normal person down in front of the Wikipedia entry on the affair and see if he manages to get through a third of the text.

There’s also the Shemen affair and a business failure, known to all. And maybe some not so nice things have been said and there are matters he isn’t necessarily proud of, but not something that should prevent a man who can and wants to be prime minister from running for the office.

We can cautiously imagine that had there been anything worse to know about Ashkenazi we would already have heard about it. And besides, hello, the reality we live in has a prime minister with three indictments, subject to a hearing, hovering over his head, and yet he’s running for reelection yet again.

Maybe Ashkenazi doesn’t want to be seen as subversive and would rather throw his support behind the party’s leader. But he may go down in history as a wasted leader, who could have diverted Israel from the road of insanity it has been barreling down.