Tuesday, 7 Jul 2020 - 15 of Tammuz, 5780

Gabi Ashkenazi, the new Israeli Foreign Minister: a veteran of major combat operations and several high-profile commando missions becomes Israel’s top diplomat

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At a ceremony welcoming Ashkenazi to his new post, the new Foreign Minister said that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan gives Israel “a historic opportunity to shape Israel’s future and its borders for the coming decades.”

“We stand before significant regional opportunities, foremost of which is President Trump’s peace initiative,” he added. “I see the plan as a significant milestone.”

 

Last Friday, during a press conference following a video conference of the 27 EU Foreign Ministers mainly dedicated to a discussion on the Middle East Peace Process in the context of the formation of a new government in Israel, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell declared: ‘’We will congratulate them once they are in office. I hope my phone call will be one of the first the (new) Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel will get in order to express what we have been talking about today in the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and our willingness to continue working with Israel on all possible cooperation fronts.’’

The new Foreign Minister in the Israeli unity government that was sworn-in on Sunday, is Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of Benny Gantz’ Blue and White party and a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff.

The 66-year-old Ashkenazi is the son of a Bulgarian Holocaust survivor and a Syrian-born mother. He earned degrees from Haifa University and Harvard Business School and spent nearly four decades in the military before entering politics.

He began his military service in the elite Golani Infantry Brigade and served in the Sinai Peninsula during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In July 1976 he was a platoon leader in Operation Entebbe to rescue kidnapped Israeli hostages held in Uganda. He first served in Lebanon in 1978, during Operation Litani. During the 1982 Lebanon War, Ashkenazi served as Deputy Commander of the Golani Brigade and was promoted to Commander in 1986.

In 1988, he was appointed head of Intelligence for the Northern Command. In the early 1990s, he commanded a reserve armor division and then went on to serve as head of Israel’s Lebanon liaison unit. In 1998 he was appointed GOC Northern Command, a position in which he oversaw Israel’s withdrawal from the security zone in southern Lebanon, bringing to an end Israel’s 18 year presence there.

Appointed IDF Deputy Chief of Staff in 2002, Ashkenazi was in charge of the construction of the West Bank security fence, erected to prevent terrorist attacks within Israel. He resigned from the IDF in May 2005 when Dan Halutz was appointed IDF Chief of Staff.

In 2007, Ashkenazi was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General and appointed 19th Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, serving until February 2011. He was replaced as army chief by Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party and now Benjamin Netanyahu’s alternate Prime Minister in the new government.

In February 2019, he joined the joint list of the Israel Resilience Party, Telem and the Yesh Atid parties for the 2019 Knesset election. The new party, renamed the Blue and White Party, won 35 of the 120 Knesset seats. It was the first time that he was elected as a Knesset member. ​

At a ceremony welcoming Ashkenazi to his new post, the new Foreign Minister said that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan gives Israel “a historic opportunity to shape Israel’s future and its borders for the coming decades.”

“We stand before significant regional opportunities, foremost of which is President Trump’s peace initiative,” he added. “I see the plan as a significant milestone.”

The Foreign Minister also expressed what has long been the concern in Blue and White, that annexation could threaten Israel’s relations with Egypt and Jordan.

“The plan will be promoted responsibly and in coordination with the US, while maintaining the peace treaties and strategic interests of the State of Israel,” Ashkenazi said.

Peace is a strategic asset for Israel that must be maintained, like military strength, the former IDF chief of staff said.

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