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Denying reports that he expressed distrust for the ability of the ground forces during the summer's war, outgoing IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz told the infantry and tank troops assembled at Shizafon base on Tuesday that he had full trust in them.
"I rely on you, on all of you. I have to rely on you, because soon I will need your protection," Halutz said, hinting at his upcoming transition to civilian life. The visit to Shizafon in the south of the country was part of his farewell tour before officially leaving his post.
"The Israeli nation sits on a grand stage, and when the IDF moves lots of people take notice," Halutz said. "Yet, not for those watching does the IDF operate, but rather for the achievement of our goals."
During his remarks to the infantry and armored divisions assembled for a multi-force exercise, Halutz addressed reports published in the Israeli press that he lacked faith in the IDF's ground forces during the war.
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"Rifle range, tank range, and the range of airplanes don't make the difference, but the people themselves," Halutz said.
Earlier in the week, Halutz testified before the Winograd Committee investigating the failures of the war in Lebanon, where he defended his decision not to send in a major ground incursion until the last few weeks of the war.
OC IDF Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, who hosted Halutz on Tuesday, said he was happy the outgoing chief of staff was given the chance to separate from the ground forces branch in a field exercise of such a large scope.
Gantz also addressed the summer's disappointing war with Hizbullah, whose perceived mismanagement ultimately led to Halutz's resigning his post.
Gantz said the Second Lebanon War not a "surprise guest," but rather a re-occurring symptom of Israel's struggle for existence in the region, and he said that it once again "proved the importance of the ground forces' capability to conduct maneuvers, while being supported by different bodies [of the IDF], to ultimately decide the battle."
"There is a need to study the war, to learn from it, and to leave it there," Gantz said. "It is upon us to confront looming threats to the South and to the North."
Two weeks ago, former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Shomron, chairman of the committee probing the performance of the General Staff during the summer's war, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the ground forces were not properly utilized in the conflict.
"The war was conducted without a clear aim," according to Shomron, preventing the capable IDF effectively deal with the incessant Katyusha rocket fire on the North.
"The General Staff did not succeed in translating the instructions of the government to stop the rocket attacks into practical operations on the ground," he said.