Chilly handshake: Ashkenazi and Barak
Photo: IDF spokesman
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chief of Staff Ashkenazi say goodbye
Photo: GPO

Barak, Ashkenazi put aside differences at farewell event

President, prime minister, senior IDF staff shower praise on outgoing Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, but defense minister still finds time to mention 'there were failures, but achievements overshadow failures'

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi's farewell tour has reached the almost-final stop, less than a day before he is set to take off the uniform he wore for nearly 39 years. At a farewell event held in his honor at Tel Aviv University, Ashkenazi shook the hand of the man he has been at odds with - Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


In his farewell speech to Ashkenazi, Barak said: "This isn't the time for criticism and scrutiny, this is the time to say thank you," hinting at the tensions which reached their height during the Galant appointment affair. "We're here to say thank you for 40 years of service. For your important contribution to the defense of the country," he said.


In his speech Barak shared stories of various operations Ashkenazi carried out: "You achieved all your targets in Operation Cast Lead and other complex operations, mostly classified, far away from these borders. There were failures, but the achievements overshadow the failures." At the end of Barak's speech, Ashkenazi got up from his seat, put his hand out to the defense minister and the two shook hands.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reports claim also had his differences with Ashkenazi over the plans to attack Iran, thanked Ashkenazi for his "thorough and professional approach. You always shared your opinions and evaluations, stood up for what you believed in and strengthened the sense of security."


Netanyahu then added: "You are a soldier, a fighter and your special relationship with the simple soldiers was evident. Even as a chief of staff, you remained a soldier. You continued to strengthen and equip us for every challenge, and we stand before some major challenges."


Netanyahu noted that "the earth has moved and is filled with deep shocks, from Pakistan to Gibraltar". He mentioned that he had welcomed the Egyptian army's announcement that they would uphold the peace treaties with Israel and said that "it is an important statement. Peace between our countries contributes to stability in the Middle East."


'IDF is stronger'

President Shimon Peres added his words of farewell and also mentioned the situation in Egypt: "You stood tall and convincing through every trial. Indeed, even before you said your final farewell, the regional certainty that existed has crashed. We will leave it to history to judge those who are leaving and welcome those arriving with hope."


Peres summed up Ashkenazi's term as chief of staff by stating: "Your soldiers loved you, the equipment is new, the army is trained, the war reserve depots were cleaned and filled, the territories have been opened, terror has been forced to take a break and most importantly – the IDF has become stronger in its human and technological capabilities of which the world has never seen.


"Gabi, as the president I express my gratitude to you," Peres added. "On behalf of the people, thank you for your dedicated service and exemplary leadership. May you leave in peace and continue to contribute to this nation."


The outgoing chief of staff closed the event when he went up on stage to give his own farewell speech.


Addressing his successor Benny Gantz, Ashkenazi said: "When we said goodbye to you Benny, two months ago, it seemed impossible to imagine that we would meet again so soon, but in some cases, reality is stranger than fiction. Reality had very different plans for you than a holiday on leave." The only senior member of the IDF not present at the event was General Galant.


Ashkenazi asked that "the circumstances leading to the appointment of Gantz to the role be put aside", but once again hinted at the affair surrounding the appointment of General Galant to the role of chief of staff and the cancellation that followed: "Ultimately, I believe that the IDF is getting an excellent, highly decorated man of merit for chief of staff.


'I failed Shalit'

"A chief of staff who can restore quiet and lead the army through the challenges of the future," he said and then turned once again to Gantz: "Benny, as someone who has worked with you closely over the last year, and many years before that, I trust you and know that the security of this country is in safe hands. Good Luck."


The outgoing chief of staff also took a moment to mention the missing and captive soldiers: "I hoped and prayed that I would see Gilad Shalit here, whose parents I met in emotional and painful talks, but I failed to complete that mission. I dreamt that I would meet Tammy Arad here, Eitan and Rina Haver, The Katz family, the Feldmans, the Baumels and Halabis with new information about their sons.


"I still hope that one day soon I will get to see that, we will never lose our hope on that front. It is my uppermost conscientious duty to continue and offer my help in any way I can to promote that day, when we will be able to look at those families and tell them 'and the children shall return within their borders'."


Ashkenazi's replacement, Benny Gantz, who will receive his new rank of lieutenant general on Monday, also congratulated Ashkenazi.


US Head of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, who met with Ashkenazi and Gantz earlier today, said that he and Ashkenazi were friends and partners "like the relations between our countries". Mullen complimented Ashkenazi on his work as chief of staff and said he would continue to accompany Gantz in his new role.




פרסום ראשון: 02.13.11, 23:53
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