Gabi Ashkenazi

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Gabi Ashkenazi
Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of General Staff.jpg
Ashkenazi, in his former role of IDF chief of staff, February 2007
Ministerial roles
2020–2021Minister of Foreign Affairs
Faction represented in the Knesset
2019–2021Blue and White
Personal details
Gabriel Ashkenazi

(1954-02-25) 25 February 1954 (age 69)
Hagor, Israel
Military service
Allegiance Israel
Years of service1972–2011
RankIDF rav aluf rotated.svg Rav Aluf (highest rank)
CommandsIDF Chief of Staff
Deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF

Gabriel "Gabi" Ashkenazi (Hebrew: גַבִּי אַשְׁכְּנַזִּי; born 25 February 1954)[1] is an Israeli politician and former military leader. He previously served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.[2][3] He was the Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 2007 to 2011. He was the fourth Mizrahi Jew to become Chief of Staff of the IDF.

Early life[edit]

Gabriel (Gabi) Ashkenazi was born to a mixed Ashkenazi-Mizrahi Jewish family and grew up in Hagor, a moshav, or cooperative agricultural community in the Sharon region of central Israel, of which his parents were among the founders. His father, Yosef Ashkenazi, was a Holocaust survivor who had immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria, while his mother, Freda Ashkenazi (née Jamal), had immigrated from Syria.[4][5] Ashkenazi completed high school at a military boarding school affiliated with the prestigious Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv. His roommates included Yigal Schwartz, a major figure in Israeli literature, and Yoav Kutner, an acclaimed music editor and journalist.[6]

Ashkenazi studied at the Tel Aviv Junior Command Preparatory School and the U.S. Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Haifa and in 2004, attended the six/seven-week Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.[7][8]

His brother Tat Aluf Avi Ashkenazi,[9] was appointed head of the National Center for Training on Land (מל"י) in 2009.

Military career[edit]

Golani Brigade (1972–1988)[edit]

Ashkenazi was conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1972, and served in the Golani Brigade.[10] Ashkenazi first saw action in the Sinai Peninsula during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In July 1976, Ashkenazi was a platoon commander in the force that carried out Operation Thunderbolt, a mission to rescue hostages held in Uganda, but he did not participate in the battle at Entebbe Airport. Ashkenazi's first of many experiences in Lebanon came in 1978 during Operation Litani. Ashkenazi was wounded in the fighting and left the IDF before being asked to return as a battalion commander two years later.[1] During the 1982 Lebanon War, Ashkenazi served as Deputy Commander of the Golani Brigade and commanded the forces which captured Beaufort Castle, and the towns of Nabatieh and Jabel Baruch.[11] Promoted to Commander of the Golani Brigade in 1987, Ashkenazi was reportedly popular with his brigade's combat soldiers during his nearly two-year tenure in that post.[1]

Northern Command (1988–2002)[edit]

In 1988, Ashkenazi was appointed head of Intelligence for Israeli Northern Command. He commanded a reserve armor division in the early 1990s and later worked as the chief of Israel's civil administration in Lebanon, and in 1994 was promoted to chief of the General Staff's Operations Directorate. In 1998, Ashkenazi was appointed head of the Israeli Northern Command, a position that would make him responsible for Israel's withdrawal from its Security Zone in Southern Lebanon, ending Israel's 18 year presence in the country. Ashkenazi criticized the withdrawal, believing that it should have been accompanied by negotiations with Syria.

The Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, visits the Air Force as part of his final meeting with all units and branches in the IDF.

Deputy Chief of the General Staff (2002–2005)[edit]

Appointed IDF Deputy Chief of Staff in 2002, Ashkenazi was considered the most moderate member of the Israeli General Staff during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. When Israel began to construct a West Bank barrier in order to physically separate Israeli and Palestinian communities with the purpose of preventing terrorist attacks within Israel, Ashkenazi was placed in charge of the project. He advocated building the barrier as close to the Green Line as possible, a position which would minimize the effects of the barrier on Palestinians. The General also "objected to aggressive acts against the Palestinians" during the Intifada and once described his "greatest fear" for the IDF as "the loss of humanity [of Israeli soldiers] because of the ongoing warfare."

In early 2005, Ashkenazi became a leading candidate to replace outgoing Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon. Ultimately, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided to pick Israeli Air Force Commander Dan Halutz as Ya'alon's successor in February 2005. According to Haaretz, "Halutz was seen to have an advantage over Ashkenazi" given his personal ties with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.[12] As a result of the decision, Ashkenazi officially retired from the IDF in May 2005,[13] leaving in "enormous pain and disappointment." He then became a partner in a security consultancy company based in Tel Aviv.[14]

Director-General of the Defense Ministry (2006)[edit]

One year later, Defense Minister Amir Peretz brought Ashkenazi back to the military to serve as the Ministry of Defense's Director-General. In this position, Ashkenazi became the relatively inexperienced Minister's "right hand man" during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict and, according to Ynetnews, proved to be "much more proficient" than his boss.[1] Ynetnews attributes Peretz's decision to promote Ashkenazi to Chief of Staff to the two men's successful working relationship during the Lebanon war.

Chief of the General Staff (2007–2011)[edit]

Gabi Ashkenazi as Chief of the General Staff, 2007
Ashkenazi greets his soldiers for the last time, as he leaves his home base for civilian life.

Ashkenazi became the Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces on February 14, 2007.

As a Rav Aluf, Ashkenazi had to deal with the events of the Second Lebanon War and to draw conclusions for improvements. Under his command, the IDF went through a process of fixing its faults and weaknesses which manifested in the Second Lebanon War. Ashkenazi emphasized many intensive military trainings and military exercises, ranging from reinserting basic skills forgotten, up to large multi-corps exercise (which sometimes included full brigades).

In December 2007 Ashkenazi met with Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States – this was the first time in ten years that an Israeli chief of staff met with his U.S. counterpart. While on visit in the United States in July 2008 Mullen gave Ashkenazi the Legion of Merit military decoration with the Commander rank.

At the end of February 2008, Ashkenazi commanded Operation Hot Winter during which the IDF fought terrorist organizations in Gaza for two days. The fighting ended in a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas. At the end of 2008 and in early 2009 Ashkenazi commanded also Operation Cast Lead during which the IDF fought against Hamas and other Palestinian forces in Gaza.[15]

In February 2011, Ashkenazi retired from the army,[16] and was succeeded by Benny Gantz.[17]

Ashkenazi reportedly pushed back against an Israeli military strike on Iran in 2010.[18] Israeli Channel 10 reported that at a pivotal meeting where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to persuade his cabinet and military to order a strike, Ashkenazi and other security chiefs steadfastly opposed the move. As a result, Netanyahu did not receive the support from his cabinet to order the strike.[19]

In April 2013, he gave his first on-camera interview outside of Israel, and urged the West to provide "lethal assistance" for the opposition forces in the Syrian civil war after it was reported that President Bashar al-Assad's regime has used chemical weapons. ″Maybe a year and a half ago, when we had 10,000 deaths and less foreigners coming from Chechnya or Iraq or whatever and more extremists affiliated with al Qaeda, like Jabhat al-Nusra and others.″ Ashkenazi lamented that more action was not taken in the past as it would, perhaps, have saved lives in the long run of a civil war that has so far cost over 70,000 lives and generated over a million refugees.[20]

Public positions[edit]

In November 2011, Ashkenazi was appointed chairman of Shemen Oil and Gas Explorations Ltd., an Israeli company engaged in hydrocarbon exploration.[21][22]

Ashkenazi served as Chairman of the Rashi Foundation from February 2012[23] to 2021[24]

Political career[edit]

Ashkenazi (right) with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2020

In February 2019, the Israel Resilience Party, Telem and the Yesh Atid party announced that Ashkenazi would be joining their joint list for the 2019 Knesset election named Blue and White. Ashkenazi is number four on the new list of candidates, as another representative of the Israel Resilience Party.[25] In 2020, Ashkenazi was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs as a part of the Thirty-fifth government of Israel.[3] He officially took his oath of office on 17 May 2020.[2] He served in the position until 13 June 2021, when he was replaced by Yair Lapid.[26]

Personal life[edit]

He lives in Kfar Saba[27] with his wife Ronit and their two children, Gali and Itai.[citation needed] Itai played quarterback in the Israeli Football League.[28]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In March 2012, the city of Or Yehuda named a street after him.[29]


  1. ^ a b c d "Who is Gabi Ashkenazi?". Ynetnews. January 22, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "After year of deadlock and days of delays, Knesset swears in new Israeli government".
  3. ^ a b Levinson, Chaim (April 20, 2020). "Netanyahu, Gantz Sign Coalition Deal to Form Government" – via Haaretz.
  4. ^ Ashkenazi, Eli (May 15, 2011). "The Saga of Syrian Youth Aliyah". Haaretz. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  5. ^ Smadar Peled, "The kids of Menachem's notebook", January 4, 2013, Israel Channel 2 News
  6. ^ Lori, Aviva (June 17, 2005). "Literary license". Haaretz. Archived from the original on November 21, 2007. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
  7. ^ "Gabi Ashkenazi: Curriculum Vitae - Israel - Jerusalem Post". Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  8. ^ "Gabi Ashkenazi". Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  9. ^ Shachnai, Omer, "Bon Voyage Ashkenazi: Departing IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi goes on vacation to the US" Archived August 26, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, February 27, 2011
  10. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, Changing the rules in the Gaza Strip comes with a cost, The Jerusalem Post, October 13, 2018.
  11. ^ "Curriculum Vitae – The Chief of the General Staff". Israel Defense Forces. February 14, 2007. Archived from the original on May 28, 2007. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  12. ^ "Mofaz picks Halutz as next IDF chief of staff". Haaretz. February 22, 2005. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  13. ^ "IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi". YnetNews. February 8, 2007. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  14. ^ "Security and Defense: Modern-day 'Motta'". The Jerusalem Post. January 25, 2007. Archived from the original on July 8, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  15. ^ Giora Eiland, The Changing of the Guard in the IDF, INSS Insight No. 242, 20.02.2011.
  16. ^ גרינברג, חנן (February 13, 2011). "ברק נפרד מאשכנזי: זמן לתודה, לא לחשבון נפש". Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  17. ^ אפרים, עומרי (February 14, 2011). "גנץ רמטכ"ל: "צה"ל יתעצם ויתאים עצמו לאתגרים"". Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  18. ^ Oren, Amir (June 6, 2011). "The consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran". Haaretz. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  19. ^ Zeiger, Asher (August 12, 2012). "Netanyahu, Barak raised idea of Iran attack years ago, 'but security chiefs shot them down'". The Times of Israel. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  20. ^ Rare interview with former head of the Israeli military, CNN April 30th, 2013
  21. ^ Neuman, Nadav (December 1, 2011). "Shemen Oil and Gas raises NIS 120m in IPO". Globes. Archived from the original on August 2, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  22. ^ Salinas, Shay, "Ashkenazi to chair oil and gas company", Ynetnews, November 7, 2011
  23. ^ "הג'וב החדש של גבי אשכנזי: יו"ר קרן רש"י". TheMarker. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  24. ^ "שאול שני מונה ליו"ר קרן רש"י". הידען (in Hebrew). January 29, 2021. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  25. ^ Staff (February 21, 2019). "Lapid-Gantz-Ya'alon list: 'Blue and White'". Israel National News. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  26. ^ "Minister of Foreign Affairs and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved September 22, 2021.
  27. ^ "גבי אשכנזי ביקר במאיר: "נכון שאיבדנו את האמון שלו, אבל בסוף גם הציבור צריך לגלות אחריות"". צומת השרון כפר סבא (in Hebrew). September 14, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  28. ^ "N12 - בנו של הרמטכ"ל - כוכב על מגרש הפוטבול". N12. July 26, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  29. ^ "Ashkenazi: I Never Ran Away from a Fight". Israel National News. March 5, 2012. Retrieved March 20, 2012.

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