Netanyahu, appreciates Ashkenazi
Photo: Reuters
Ashkenazi, to end term in February, 2011
Photo: Avi Roccah
Barak, did not mean to humiliate
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Aides: Barak did not mean to humiliate Ashkenazi

Following stormy responses to Barak's decision not to extend chief of staff's tenure for fifth year, defense minister's office expresses esteem for Ashkenazi. Netanyahu party to decision, adds his praise

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was informed more than a week ago about Defense Minister Ehud Barak's intention to announce the end of Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi's tenure after four years. The Prime Minister's Office told Ynet on Tuesday that the prime minister did not oppose Barak's decision, but emphasized that Netanyahu greatly esteemed Ashkenazi's service.


At the same time, as a result of the stormy response to Barak's announcement, the defense minister's office rejected all insinuations that the decision humiliated the chief of staff or was disrespectful. Sources close to the defense minister said that the decision had been taken in consultation with the prime minister, in keeping with all regulations, and certainly not to humiliate Ashkenazi.


"The notification was sent by the military secretary to the chief of staff's office," the same sources said. "The chief of staff is greatly esteemed, and we know of no more respectful way of informing him than to send him a message in an orderly manner a short time after he met with the defense minister."


The sources also reject claims that the timing was the result of recent media stories about tension between the two. According to a senior source, "The end date of his tenure has been under discussion for weeks, as well as the need for a replacement. This is why the chief of staff was invited to meet the defense minister. The meeting went very well."


Netanyahu supports decision

According to the Prime Minister's Office, Barak explained his decision to Netanyahu. Among other things, the defense minister said that replacing the chief of staff was necessary in order to build up the IDF's command structure and enable young officers to integrate into the General Staff.


The two also said that according to decisions of previous governments and recommendations of former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, tenure should be kept within the four-year term.


Netanyahu accepted Barak's explanations, and respected his decision, despite the prime minister's highest esteem for the chief of staff's work throughout the four years of his tenure. Furthermore, it was noted that Netanyahu trusts Barak in the field of defense.


Earlier, the Defense Minister's Office said that Barak had decided that Ashkenazi's term would finish on the date originally determined by the government, February 2011.


In an unusual move, Ashkenazi responded with a notice of his own, expressing his surprise at the step taken. He said he failed to understand the point in raising the issue since a fifth year was not even on the agenda.


Sources 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."


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.


פרסום ראשון: 04.06.10, 23:52
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