(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz declared Wednesday that if the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) did not take up their agreed-upon position in southern Lebanon, the IDF would remain where they were.
"If the Lebanese army doesn't move into the south of the country to take over from UNIFIL the area we're evacuating, then as I see it, we can stop withdrawing [IDF] forces from Lebanese territory," Halutz told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at Wednesday's meeting.
For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here
Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky supported Halutz's sentiments in an interview with Army Radio, saying that the IDF would maintain several outposts in Lebanon even after the IDF withdraws from the area.
Still, Kaplinsky emphasized that the presence would be maintained "without physical forces in the field."
"If fighting breaks out again," said Kaplinsky, "we will never need to run away - we'll know how to deal with it. Our job is to facilitate the conditions for a cease-fire agreement to take hold in the field. The IDF needs to hold on to the places it currently has, since its job is to protect the residents of the North. It is our job and our obligation to prepare for the long-term as well.
"I think the IDF's presence in Lebanon will last another several weeks - not a year, and not months," he said. "We will leave when the Lebanese government takes responsibility for what happened in the south of the country. If we have to keep soldiers there a little bit longer, we will do so."
Kaplinsky also discussed the public feeling that Israel had apparently lost the war.
"I am sorry about this feeling," he said. "We went to war with very clear goals. Unfortunately, we did not bring the two kidnapped boys home, but we created other conditions that the Israeli government defined for us - that there should be security along our military border. We also succeeded in making tactical achievements - despite the fact that mishaps and mistakes occurred, which we can learn from.
"The power of deterrence can't be measured in such a short period of time after the end of the fighting," he concluded.
Kaplinsky also addressed the accusations against Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz on Tuesday - namely, that Halutz sold his investment portfolio shortly before the war began.
"I can imagine the great difficulties that Halutz is dealing with," he said. "I'm a little disappointed and angry about the situation he's come to."
Kaplinsky defended Halutz, saying he saw nothing wrong with the Chief of General Staff's actions.
"I saw Halutz working and functioning during these difficult moments, I saw the level-headedness and the brave decisions he made. I saw his concern for all the wider contexts of this situation. When everything started, we didn't know we were in for such a long war. He was busy leading the army.
"I really hope Halutz will not decide to resign," concluded Kaplinsky. "We have more difficult missions and difficult days ahead of us. I hope the Chief of General Staff will continue to lead us."