Ashkenazi in clear to launch Bibi challenge
THE DECISION by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein last week to close the five-year investigation into alleged abuses of power by former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi also launched what is beginning to look like a new race for the leadership of Israel’s political centre-left.
Former lieutenant general Ashkenazi left military service five years ago as a widely popular commander of Israel’s army but also under a cloud, accused of having used his office to plot against his political masters.
The attorney-general’s decision not to indict him or his aides opens the way for Mr Ashkenazi to join the political arena.
The ex-general has not given an interview in 10 years and his political views are unknown.
In private conversations, however, he has revealed his political ambitions and said that should he join a political party, or found one of his own, his motivation would be to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The leaders of the two main centrist opposition parties, Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, have been wooing him for months and both congratulated him on Twitter following the attorney-general’s decision. Both would love to have Mr Ashkenazi as their number two, a popular general who cannot be easily portrayed by the Likud campaign machine as a limp-wristed leftie.
However, the new politician is unlikely to be satisfied with the second spot on a party list. He has two alternatives. He could link up with other political “stars”, such as former Likud interior minister, Gideon Saar, currently estranged from Mr Netanyahu. Or he could join the race for the next leader of Labour (the main component in the Zionist Union), where Mr Herzog’s position is increasingly embattled.
Both Herzog and Lapid would love him as a number two