Ever since the assassination of Hezbollah’s Chief of Staff Imad Mugniyah a year and a half ago, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi has become the most secure figure in the country, with the exception of the prime minister.
Hence, defense officials are extremely concerned about the fact that within such a short period of time, two significant and elementary gaps were discovered in his security ring.
First, it was the army chief’s credit card which was stolen out of his own office by a soldier, right under the nose of security guards. Yet before members of the military unit tasked with securing high-ranking army officials had a chance to recover from this incident, it turned out that an Arab-Israeli student from Tira who was working out in the chief of staff’s gym in Kfar Saba was in contact with Hezbollah.
The main question that has to be looked into at this time is why the army chief chose to work out in a civilian gym – whose members includes dozens of Arab Israelis – instead of only frequenting the secured weight room available to him and to other generals at General Staff headquarters in Tel Aviv.
According to security officials, the chief of staff should have been more aware of security considerations and should have only worked out at the military gym.
We could assume that the army chief’s bodyguards would demand that he stay away from a civilian gym where he may be vulnerable to attack. However, here we have yet another problem: The military unit tasked with securing top figures is made up of military men who are the chief of staff’s subordinates. As opposed to this, the national bodyguards unit is an independent body whose members are not subordinated to the prime minister.
The commander of the military unit, Lieutenant Colonel Haim, is indeed a worthy and esteemed officer and a veteran of the elite Flotilla 13 unit and of the IDF’s anti-terrorism school. However, the IDF does not possess expertise in the area of bodyguards.
In the wake of the arrest of the student from Tira, the security detail around Ashkenazi had been boosted. However, security officials still believe that the responsibility for securing the army chief should be handed over to the Shin Bet, while the army unit in charge of securing senior officers faces an inquiry.