Lt. Gen Dan Halutz who resigned as chief of staff over Lebanon War will have to hold the fort until the battle for a successor is resolved
The three leading candidates are the defense ministry’s director-general and former OC northern command Gabi Ashkenazi, head of the general staff ground forces division Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz, another past northern command chief and the deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky.
Halutz took his leave of the general staff Wednesday, announcing he would hold the fort until his successor was in place. In his letter of resignation to the prime minister, the departing chief of staff said that with the completion of military probes into the outcome of the Lebanon war, he was holding himself accountable and stepping down. This step immediately redoubled the widespread public demand for the prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz to admit their responsibility and follow his example. All three have been under steady popular pressure to resign since the Lebanon war ended.
Labor MP and former Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon praised the Halutz resignation as an example to the heads of government and a key step towards opening up the IDF to the essential process of recovery, rehabilitation and adaptation to its contemporary and future missions. Ayalon echoed the general conviction that the Halutz appointment as chief of staff by the Sharon government in Jan. 2005 had been politically-tainted, a precedent which must not be repeated. (Halutz replaced Lt. Gen Moshe Yaalon who was sacked for opposing the summer 2005 evacuation of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip.)
Gen. Halutz announced he was quitting hours after a former chief of staff, Dan Shomron completed his high-level military probe into the mismanagement of the July-Aug 2006 Lebanon War. Shomron found that the chief of staff Dan Halutz and the general command had no clear objective. Even when the prime minister finally ordered them to halt the 33-day rocket barrage against northern Israel, the directive was not heeded.
Shomron also criticized as a serious blunder the decision by prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni to relegate to UNIFIL and the Lebanese army the task of preventing Hizballah’s rearmament. Since the war ended last August, he reported, Hizballah had brought its missile arsenal back to the pre-war level.
The last Lebanon War inquiry panel headed by Judge Vinograd has yet to submit its findings. It was set up to establish what went wrong in the conflict launched last July in Lebanon after Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Before the campaign was curtailed by a UN ceasefire in August, 116 Israeli soldiers had lost their lives, but the IDF was unable to rescue the kidnapped men or achieve victory over Hizballah.