Text size

Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Thursday backed up Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's decision to immediately discharge Major General Yiftah Ron-Tal.

Ron-Tal, whose outspoken criticism of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and call for the resignation of Halutz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the war in Lebanon raised a storm in the media, said he did not retract his statements.

"I believe that an officer in uniform must behave as an officer and must not become involved in political issues. When he is released from the army, he can certainly present his positions," Peretz said Thursday during a tour of a reserve division in the Northern Command. The defense minister added that Halutz had made "the right decision" in dismissing Ron-Tal.

"The commander of the army should first of all demand of himself what he so passionately demands of his subordinates, especially when human lives and the security of the state are the issue," Ron-Tal told Haaretz. "He expects me to take responsibility, but what about him?" he added.

Ron-Tal, who until November was commander of the Ground Forces Command, said he doubted that Halutz had the legal authority to dismiss him in the way he did - by a letter sent to his house. However, he added that it did not matter because he had decided to resign in any case following the furor generated by his remarks.

At the same time Halutz's letter was on its way on Wednesday evening, Ron-Tal sent Halutz a fax announcing his resignation. He wrote the chief of staff that his 33 years in IDF service had been a great privilege and that "in contrast to others we both know, I know when the right time is to depart."

Ron-Tal also told Haaretz that he stood behind his remarks first published in the weekly "Kfar Habad," but claimed that he did not expect such a hue and cry as a result.