IDF chief resigns as criticism mounts
THERE WERE renewed calls this week for both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz to step down following the surprise resignation of IDF chief of staff Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz.
Israel’s top soldier resigned on Tuesday night following months of criticism of the IDF’s performance in last summer’s war in Lebanon, during which the army failed to destroy the Hizbollah militia or secure the release of two soldiers captured by the Shia organisation.
The resignation was unexpected as General Halutz had previously insisted that he would remain in charge of the IDF to oversee its rehabilitation.
In a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, General Halutz wrote: “For me the word ‘responsibility’ bears great meaning: it is everything, from A to Z. My sense of responsibility has led me to remain in my position up until now [until the internal investigations into the IDF’s performance in Lebanon were completed], and it has led me to hand you this letter today.” General Halutz turned down a request from Mr Olmert to withdraw his letter.
Knesset members from across the political spectrum were quick to demand that both Mr Olmert and Mr Peretz follow General Halutz’s example and also resign.
“Halutz’s step was unavoidable, but he was not the only one responsible for the failures of the war — the government was too,” Labour MK Ophir Pines-Paz told Army Radio. Likud MK Gidon Sa’ar said: “It doesn’t make sense for the chief of staff to carry all the blame, while his supervisors at the political level — those responsible for the failures of the war — escape the responsibility and continue in their positions.”
The favourite candidate to replace General Halutz is former deputy chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who lost out to General Halutz in the battle for the top spot in 2005 and is currently the director-general of the Defence Ministry. More importantly, Mr Ashkenazi had no involvement in last summer’s fighting and so is not tainted by the war’s failure. Other candidates include the present deputy chief of staff, Major-General Moshe Kaplinsky, who served as General Halutz’s personal representative on the Northern Command during the war, and Major-General Benny Gantz, the head of the IDF Ground Forces.
General Halutz, the first air force commander to go on to head the IDF, was criticised for lacking a clear objective in last summer’s fighting, relying on the air force during the first few days of the war and for being slow to call up the infantry reserves. He successfully led the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005.
Former chief of staff Dan Shomron, who conducted an examination into General Halutz’s performance during the Lebanon war, said that the resignation would hinder the IDF’s implementation of the lessons learnt.
“The chief of staff has been crucified over the past few months,” Mr Shomron told the Ynet website. “On a personal level, he has the right to say: enough of this, why do I need to put up with all this criticism?”
Hizbollah’s television station, alManar, claimed on Wednesday that General Halutz’s resignation was proof that Hizbollah had defeated the IDF last summer.