halutz fists 298 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Senior political and military officials on Tuesday called for the resignation of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, following a Ma'ariv report that he liquidated his investment portfolio a few hours after war erupted in Lebanon.
According to the report, which caused a storm throughout the country on Tuesday, Halutz told his bank to sell his stock holdings on July 12, just hours after Hizbullah kidnapped two soldiers and killed eight others.
For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here
Halutz's portfolio was valued at approximately NIS 120,000. It would have suffered losses with the rest of the Tel Aviv 25 index, which dropped 8.3 percent during the week following the outbreak of hostilities.
Halutz on Tuesday called the report "baseless" and "evil."
"I don't know who is behind this and I do not plan to be dragged into a debate over my personal integrity," he told reporters during a briefing in his Tel Aviv office. "I am also a citizen and I have my own household."
In Ma'ariv's report on Monday, Halutz was quoted as telling the paper he had lost NIS 25,000 in his investment portfolio and began to sell off his assets gradually.
"It's true that I sold off the entire portfolio, which was worth NIS 120,000, on July 12 at around 12:00 noon, but you can't connect this with the war," he was quoted as saying. "There is no connection. At that moment I didn't think and didn't expect there would be war. During the war itself I did a lot of things that were related to my personal and family life."
Some senior officers in Northern Command expressed shock upon reading the report.
"We have spent the last month fighting without even going home for one night of rest," one officer said, "and here Halutz, who is supposed to be running the war, has time to play with his stock portfolio."
Some defense officials outwardly called for Halutz's immediate resignation.
"Other officers have been sent home on much less," said a senior defense official. "There is no doubt that in this case, too, that should be the outcome."
Critics of Halutz said he had misplaced his priorities at a sensitive and critical time for Israel.
MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party) on Tuesday said he had asked Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to open an investigation into the incident.
"We expect that at the critical hour, the chief of General Staff will dedicate all of his capabilities to conduct the war and not to manage his personal accounts for revenue and loss in the stock exchange," he said. "As long as the military battle is not over, it is of utmost importance that the chief of General Staff be free from any shadow of suspicion or crime."
MKs from across the political spectrum criticized Halutz.
"There is a serious problem here in his priorities when the security of Israel hangs in the balance," said MK Colette Avital (Labor). "There is a Romanian saying that goes, 'The country is burning and grandma is combing her hair.' The country burned and all that interested him was his investment portfolio."
Knesset House Committee chairwoman Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) said the incident was "very strange," and called for Halutz to provide a detailed explanation to justify his actions.
The IDF Spokesperson said the chief of General Staff had a bank account like any other Israeli citizen, and termed attempts to link Halutz's personal matters and national security "inappropriate."