"On behalf of the nation of Israel, I thank you"

In a ceremony commemorating the outgoing Chief of Staff, Israel’s Prime Minister, President, Minister of Defense and more said parting words to Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi

Date: 14/02/2011, 11:58 AM     Author: Jonathan Urich

Israeli President, Shimon Peres, Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, the incoming IDF (Zahal) Chief of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, members of the General Staff Forum and the country’s senior officials arrived on Monday night (Feb. 13) to show appreciation for outgoing Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, finishing his four-year term in office.

President Peres praised Chief of Staff Ashkenazi as he completed his term in office. “The soldiers loved you, units providing equipment for reserves soldiers were depleted and filled up, the army was well trained and terrorist activity put to a halt. The IDF (Zahal) grew stronger in capabilities and technological advancements, its might set to prove itself in times of war and peace. You were the only one in your rank and a man of the nation to your soul,” said the President.

In addressing the Chief of Staff’s character, the President said, “his schedule is not simply split into day and night. He’s not calm even if all fronts are calm. His duty is to command the army’s various arms and ensure they work as one clenched fist. It is his duty to motivate without criticizing. And it is his duty to remember that while certain notions can divide, joint efforts have the power to unite.”

He continued saying that, “the IDF (Zahal) is the most moral army in the world, ensuring the defense of the entire nation.”

According to the President, the Chief of Staff must express his opinions knowing he may face backlash. “He must build a powerful army for future conflicts both expected and not. Before even his final farewells were even over, the steadfast stability that existed in the region fell apart,” said President Peres, referring to recent changes in our region.

“You sharpened organization, meticulousness in action and results”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned to Chief of Staff Ashkenazi saying, “Israel thanks you for your thorough and professional work, you heightened security. You sharpened organization, meticulousness in action and results. Local awareness of the IDF (Zahal)’s might grew, as did trust and better training in the IDF (Zahal), with all its impressive technological abilities.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the outgoing Chief of Staff had strategy. “He always said, I’m just a simple Golani [infantry] soldier. Analyzing this you’ll find organization and clarity. There is depth behind his words. I went out on the field with you a lot, I saw how much you love sand and rocks, the wind and the sun. I saw you in your element in the North. You are a soldier and a fighter and it is immediately evident from your behavior,” he said.

“You cared for your soldiers and you cared for the powerhouse that is the IDF (Zahal), wanting to make it stronger and equip it with every necessary weapon for war. You wanted to build our strength before we face big challenges. We are hoping for the best and we’ll fight in the best way we can, preserving peace where it exists and working to spread it,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“On behalf of the nation of Israel, I thank you”

The Prime Minister addressed recent events saying he praises “the actions of the Egyptian army. The peace with Egypt is important to the stability of the entire Middle East. We know we have yet to see the end of this chaos but the challenges ahead will be what they will be. We’re ready for them with the help of commanders like you because of the crucial work you did and support you gave in the last four years.”

“On behalf of the government of Israel, the nation of Israel, I thank you,” he said to Chief of Staff Ashkenazi. “I thank you for your lengthy service as a soldier and commander in the IDF (Zahal) and for the important period of time in which you were head of the army and improved its capabilities and its activities in general for the fortification of the security of Israel,” he said.

To the incoming Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Prime Minister said that he, “wishes you and all of us your success in this challenging position full of responsibility. You’ve taken on many positions among the General Staff and in the operational commandership, your experience is an asset to the nation. Like Gabi, your story is the story of our lives.”

“I saw Gabi focused entirely on the mission”

Minister of Defense Ehud Barak parted from the Chief of Staff as well, saying, “we came to tell you, Chief of the General Staff, thank you for serving four decades, in which you gave so much to strengthen the IDF (Zahal) and the security of the country. I saw Gabi focused entirely on the mission, ready and following every detail, completely in control of the reality on the field. He was able to balance the push toward the finish and dedication to the mission.”

The Minister of Defense added saying, “Gabi brought with him professional experience, even during long and exhausting training exercises and ensured better equipment for the reserves, simultaneously dealing with all the elements of the next war. Under his commandership the IDF (Zahal) fought in Operation Cast Lead accomplishing all its goals as well as in tens of other complex operations, most of them secret, far away from the State of Israel and touching on subjects of the utmost importance.”

“The IDF (Zahal) is stronger than the difficulties it is facing these days, the deterring factor exists. The forces are equipped and trained better than ever. For that you deserve a great thanks of appreciation,” concluded the Minister of Defense.

“I saw it as an order when you told me to continue”

Miriam Peretz, who lost her son Uriel and twelve years later her son Eliraz, parted from Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, too, as he was with her throughout the tragedies. “He always said about my sons: They died under my watch. He lowers the flag and salutes, remembers and never forgets. Standing there, the Chief of the General Staff was not the one who stood by me, the IDF (Zahal)’s commander. Gabi stood next to me, the person. With compassion and nobility,” said Peretz at the event.

“You saw in the grieving families and those who fell an undividable part of the spirit and power of the army,” she turned to the Chief of Staff and said. “Each family surely has moments in their meeting with you that will stay with them forever. Each family will hold on to them with love and appreciation. The phone call on the eve of a holiday, the interest in family members. Deep conversations, before joyous family occasions and at every opportunity,” she said.

Mrs. Peretz added, saying, “It is from you I got the strength to keep going. I learned to fight for every soldier. I owe you a lot for the path you laid out. As your fighter I feel I have a responsibility to you. I saw it as an order when you told me to continue. I didn’t say no. I was also your soldier.”

“Thank you,” she said, “For the opportunity to know you that five out of six of my kids served under your command. You strengthened our belief in the army and in its commanders. I salute you with the utmost respect, as you saluted my sons.”