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After coming under some of the harshest criticism in the Winograd report and being accused of acting "impulsively" during the Second Lebanon War, former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz spoke out in his own defense Monday night and stood by his decision to take responsibility and resign from his post in January.
Halutz was slammed by the report, which claimed that neither he nor the IDF were prepared for the abduction of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
"When the abduction happened, he responded impulsively," the report read. "He did not alert the political leaders to the complexity of the situation, and did not present information, assessments and plans that were available in the IDF at various levels of planning and approval and which would have enabled a better response to the challenges."
Halutz, who is currently studying at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, was additionally accused of not alerting the political echelon to the "serious shortcomings" in the level of readiness and fitness of the IDF for an extensive ground operation.
"Halutz's responsibility is aggravated by the fact that he knew well that both Prime Minister [Ehud Olmert] and Defense Minister [Amir Peretz] lacked adequate knowledge and experience in these matters, and by the fact that he had led them to believe that the IDF was ready and prepared and had operational plans fitting the situation," the report claimed.
While current members of the General Staff - particularly OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky - were not criticized in the interim report released Monday, the report hinted that they, too, were responsible for the failures of the war.
"Members of the IDF General Staff who were familiar with the assessments and intelligence concerning the Lebanon front, and the serious deficiencies in preparedness and training, did not insist that these should be considered within the army, and did not alert the political leaders concerning the flaws in the decisions and the way they were made," the report read.
Defense officials estimated that Kaplinsky's future in the IDF would only be determined in the final report and that if he came under fire, he would need to resign and give up hopes of running for chief of General Staff following Ashkenazi in four years. In addition to Eizenkot, who served as head of the IDF Operations Directorate during the war, OC IDF Ground Forces Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz is also seen as a potential victim of the report for his part in not pushing Halutz enough on a ground operation into southern Lebanon.
Ashkenazi received the report in the afternoon and immediately appointed a team of officers to be led by OC Planning Division Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan to review it and draw practical conclusions and recommendations for the IDF. Members of the General Staff heard of the harsh conclusions during an exercise they were participating in at the Tzrifin Base near Rishon Lezion which was planned in advance and meant to drill the generals ahead of a future war.
In a statement released on Halutz's behalf by the IDF Spokesperson's Office, the former chief of General Staff called the committee a "milestone" in the investigation of the war and the years leading up to it.
Halutz said that until he read the full report, he did not intend to respond to specific conclusions. He said that prior to and during the war, he had been guided by the principles of "truth and honor" when deciding to take responsibility and resign.
While the report refrained from directly passing criticism on IDF officers, the committee members did hint to a failure on the part of Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, who served as commander of the Galilee Division during the war. The committee members wrote that the writing was on the wall with regard to Hizbullah plans to kidnap an IDF soldier and that while Hirsch tried to prepare a preventative plan, it was not drilled and as a result the soldiers were not on a high enough level of alert.
The report further slammed the IDF's "Operational Concept" drafted under Halutz and according to which a war was not to be won by the conquering of territory or the destruction of an enemy but rather by "effects" such as massive firepower from the air force and the artillery corps. This concept, the report claimed, proved itself to be wrong during the war.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University police did not allow reporters access to the former chief of General Staff, who is weathering out the storm from the report in the university's executive suites.
A police spokesman said that Halutz was "not interested in talking to the media."
But Israeli taxpayers do not have to worry that Halutz will be uncomfortable in McArthur Hall on Soldiers' Field Road. He will have maid service and access to whirlpools, a sauna and a steam room when class is not in session.
With Ehud Netzer from the Rafael Armament Development Authority and Shlomo Braun from Bank Hapoalim in his class, Halutz will have someone to talk to in Hebrew if he needs a little reminder of home.
Newscasters seeking a comment from Halutz from Israel's Channel 10 were escorted off campus by Harvard police, who patrolled the area around his classroom and outside the building.
Matt Rand contributed to this report from Cambridge