14 March 2007

Gabi Ashkenazi, Dirt under his fingernails

Gabi Ashkenazi replaced Fly-boy Halutz as IDF's chief with very little fanfare. The required photo-op proceeded with little agitation. The ritual was mostly subdued - one could distinctly hear what was not being said. Amir Peretz farted a few inconsequential brown-nose type sentences, congratulating Halutz – which in real speak meant 'please don't open Pandora's crate and I wont say a thing either'. While in the background Olmert was noticeably seen whispering and flirting with Ashkenzi, making it obvious that what was being spoken was not for Peretz's ears.

Cutting aside from visible politics and game play, left the Israeli public wondering what this hasty switch was really all about. On one level it made sense - heads needed to roll. Fly-boy showed the way, accepting responsibility for something unarticulated, playing the aloof gentleman - pointed his turrets downwards, concentrating the baulk of his bitching at the high ranking generals that surrounded him. Ominously, nothing of consequence pointing upwards in the direction of Peretz or Olmert. Some say that once the investigative committees set up amid back and forth meandering and public outrage come in with conclusions, Halutz will release his 'upwards' homing missiles.

The Man

Ashkenazi worked his way up by wearing the soles of his IDF issue boots thin. His exterior shows the muscular long-forearm stance of a Golanoid*, as do his interconnected eyebrows. Surprisingly for a man of his build he steps lightly, disturbing little dirt as he purposely storms his way forward. This man is proactive as opposed to reactive. He is known to breakfast on sand filled Pitas while gravel is his preferred side dish. He isn't a man of words, and most certainly won't be seen regularly on primetime interviews. Since stepping into the position of chief, his exposure to the media has been erratic, consisting mostly of long wide angle shots that show him in transit. His immediate impact on the IDF judging by the ominous silence will be more… silence - as in the days of old when the IDF was invisible, omnipresent and mute. His method seems to concentrate on seeking out and lining up potential brilliance while shifting years of accumulated shit into the retirement sewer, again in silence. Meanwhile, Ynet reports a recent surge of conscript interest in joining Golani.

What to expect?

Hard graft mostly. Before he stepped back in, the IDF initiated a training frenzy. Reserves are called up and perform all-sweeping live fire maneuvers designed to take in all the inadequacies apparent après the Leb II skirmish, emphasis being on a return to ground forces bias.
Many believe that finances will not be an issue for Ashkenazi; unlike his predecessors he will easily be able to demonstrate the consequences of years of budget cuts, and the long term effect on IDF's readiness. According to various media reports, a colossal stock up has been initiated; projects that were on hold will now be reassessed, while new projects such as the rocket defense system will go to production. Ashkenazi nevertheless will not be one to rest on technology, and will return to simple quality soldiering.

* Golanoid - IDF slang for Golani soldiers – alluding to Downs Syndrome.