Chief of Staff Dan Halutz Resigns

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz announced his resignation yesterday, in the wake of the failures that were revealed in the army's functioning and command during the second Lebanon war.

Halutz informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and senior General Staff officers of his decision. In a letter of resignation to Olmert and Peretz, Halutz said his sense of responsibility led him to remain in the IDF until the conclusion of internal army inquiries and the application of lessons learned to the 2007 agenda. Given that this process was completed at the beginning of the month, Halutz asked to resign his post, effective immediately.

The Prime Minister's Office said yesterday that Olmert knew in advance of Halutz's intent to resign, and asked him to reconsider. Once the prime minister became convinced that Halutz was determined to resign, Olmert accepted the resignation and expressed deep sorrow over Halutz's decision.

Halutz will be temporarily replaced by Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky. In the near future Peretz will have to present the cabinet with a candidate to be the next chief of staff. Kaplinsky is an obvious choice for the position, but also mentioned are Ground Forces Commander Benny Gantz, and reserve major-generals Gabi Ashkenazi (who is currently the Defense Ministry director general), Shlomo Yanai and Ilan Biran.

Halutz's expected decision had received much attention among the General Staff in the past two months. However, at a January 1 press conference held at the conclusion of the inquiries, Halutz strongly rejected reporters' questions over whether he should resign in the wake of the findings. He said at the time that he would resign only if he is asked to do so by his superiors or the Winograd Committee. In recent weeks Halutz apparently reconsidered his decision, and decided it would be best to resign prior to the Winograd Committee's interim report, which is expected at the end of February. Halutz is set to testify before the committee soon.

Senior General Staff officers welcomed Halutz's decision, saying it was necessary in view of what has come to light regarding the IDF's wartime functioning. "The time has really come," a general who played an active role in the war told Haaretz yesterday. "[Former GOC Northern Command] Udi Adam indicated the proper moral path with his decision [to resign]. Now Halutz joins him as well - and the inquiries show only the tip of the iceberg regarding Halutz's functioning during the war."

In his letter to Olmert, Halutz wrote: "For me, the word responsibility has great meaning. My view of responsibility is what led me to remain in my post until this time and to place this letter on your desk today ... Since the echoes of battle ceased, I decided to act responsibly according to the best traditions and values from home and from my service in the IDF."

Halutz said that after the conclusion of the inquiries "I feel proud that I completed what I set out to do. After these thorough processes, I am sure the IDF will be ready to meet the challenges ahead."

Halutz added that "the nature of human beings is not to be happy to serve in a system that is not appreciated or protected by those who dispatch it. We must ensure that we do not reach a point in which high-quality people will hesitate to bind their fate and future to the IDF. Neither good education nor even a strong economy will help us then, and there is a danger that the threats to the State of Israel will become more tangible."