halutz 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
In his first public appearance since the scandal broke over his investment portfolio, IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz was blasted by members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Wednesday for allowing his "personal life to intrude into matters of the state."
Halutz has been accused of "insider trading" for liquidating his investment portfolio two hours after Hizbullah gunmen kidnapped two soldiers along the northern border.
"There are many pages missing from the Halutz story, and it is a story that must be told," said MK Effi Eitam (NU-NRP). Eitam was the only MK to question Halutz during the meeting, despite the fact that the chief of staff had refused to answer questions.
At the start of the meeting, committee chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) warned the committee members not to attack Halutz.
"The personal attack on the chief of staff is in my eyes despicable," said Hanegbi. "This behavior is like the culture of judgment that was characteristic of the guillotine operators in the French Revolution, this is not our own culture."
Hanegbi himself was indicted Tuesday by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz for allegedly making dozens of political appointments while he was environment minister.
Although the committee normally convenes for upwards of five or six hours, Wednesday's meeting lasted for barely three before Halutz left for a meeting in the Prime Minister's Office. MKs accused Halutz of wasting time during the meeting and purposefully fleeing before the MKs could question him.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) voiced his disapproval, saying, "There are lots of different questions that need to be asked, and someone needs to pay the price for the mismanagement that occurred during the war."
Meretz MK Yossi Beilin also protested the ban on questioning.
"As a committee member for many years, it's the first time I can remember that no questions were asked, and much of the meeting was a waste of time," he said. "I hope that was not done on purpose, because there are many important questions that need to be raised about why this war happened and how it was managed."
Halutz has had a tumultuous relationship with the committee, and one member said that he "sat with his shoulders slumped as though his world had come tumbling down. The proud, everything-is-possible, confident Halutz nearly disappeared."
Labor MK Ami Ayalon, a former commander of the Israeli navy, was the only MK to defend Halutz following the meeting, stating that the chief of General Staff must not resign at this time.
"It is vital that General Halutz now oversee the rehabilitation of the IDF. Only then should the Chief of Staff consider resigning," said Ayalon.
Halutz was also supported by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who said in a statement released to the press on Wednesday that the commander of the IDF had fulfilled his duties with the utmost sense of loyalty to the State of Israel.
Peretz met Tuesday night with Halutz and spoke to him about the reports in the press of the stock-liquidation affair. The defense minister added that he believed Halutz had his full attention on the war in Lebanon and not on other matters.
Peretz was not the only official to come to Halutz's rescue on Wednesday, as a handful of major generals were interviewed on the radio in support of their commander.
"The chief of staff continues to command the IDF as he has done all the time," Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky told Army Radio. "He knows how to make distinctions as a serious and responsible adult and, in my eyes, as a leader between the storm that has developed and what is really important, including continuing to lead the military."
Meanwhile, Mazuz said Wednesday evening that Halutz did not violate stock market laws by selling his stocks.
In a letter to MK Zevulun Orlev, who had called for a criminal investigation into the matter, Mazuz wrote that it did not appear that Halutz had violated such laws, and that it was "doubtful" he was guilty of any other criminal violations.