Ashkenazi's term as IDF chief won't be extended
Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi to end tenure as chief of staff in February 2011 after a four-year stint. Defense minister to start reviewing candidates for post in coming months. Following Barak's announcement, Ashkenazi issued statement saying, 'I never asked for additional year in office'
Barak informed Ashkenazi, 56, of the news during a meeting between the two on Tuesday and said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also involved in the decision. The defense minister is scheduled to start reviewing candidates for the post in the coming months.
The announcement comes following recent reports, according to which secret efforts were made to extend Ashkenazi's term by an additional year in light of security challenges the army is facing, mainly posed by Iran.
Sources at Barak's office were quick to deny the reports and blamed IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu for spreading the word. Over the last weeks Barak refused to comment on the issue.
During their meeting Tuesday the defense minister expressed his appreciation of Ashkenazi's work and noted he was convinced he would carry on in the same manner duirng his last year on post.
'Announcement meant to humiliate him'
Following the announcement, an aid close to Ashkenazi told Ynet, "There is a sense that this announcement was meant to humiliate the chief of staff, turn him into a lame duck, and to hurt him."
The source added, "The matter of extended the chief of staff's term was not an issue, and he did not discuss the matter with the defense minister or the prime minister, and never asked to have his term extended. Therefore this was a peculiar announcement, since the government had decided on a four-year term. It seems the defense minister is unable to abuse the chief of staff, as past defense ministers have done, by reversing their decision on extending chief of staff's terms and making other decisions."
Sources well acquainted with the Barak-Ashkenazi relationship have recently noted that ties have been tense between the two, partially due to the chief of staff's stance on sensitive issues. There are also those in the political establishment that believe Barak is threatened by Ashkenazi's popularity, both among the public, and in the military.
Ashkenazi himself later issued a statement saying: "I wish to clarify that I never turned to the prime minister and the defense minister and asked for an additional year in office."
He noted that the government decision according to which a chief of staff is to serve for four years in office is worthy and just, adding "I don't see the point in discussing it."
Ashkenazi began his tenure as IDF chief of staff in February 2007, shortly after the government approved his appointment made by then Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and after Dan Halutz resigned from the post.
Ashkenazi retired from the IDF in 2005, after Halutz was appointed as chief of staff and was appointed as Defense Ministry director-General by Peretz in July 2006.
The only chief of staff to serve for five years was late Rafael Eitan. Barak himself served as army chief for three years and nine months.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report