Analysis: Circumventing the hierarchy

Halutz submitting his resignation to Olmert rather than Peretz was a symptom of all that had gone wrong.

halutz peretz 88 (photo credit: )
halutz peretz 88
(photo credit: )
While the IDF Chief of Staff answers first and foremost to the Defense Minister; Lt.- Gen Dan Halutz preferred to send his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The last action of his command was yet another symptom of all that had gone wrong in the relationship between the IDF high command and its political legislators. Halutz was appointed, not because the government thought that it would be a brilliant idea to have an air force commander in charge of the army, but because Ariel Sharon chose him. Sharon bypassed then-defense minister, the politically weak Shaul Mofaz, and appointed the general he believed would be most loyal to him and carry out the Gaza disengagement to the letter, as well as other plans he had in store. Sharon circumvented the hierarchy by having his own man lead the army, and while it might have worked while Sharon was still in charge, as soon as he was replaced by a prime minister inexperienced in military matters and a defense minister who never wanted the job, the chain of command became totally imbalanced. With Olmert and Peretz nominally above him, Halutz began to feel the he was the only grown-up left in charge of Israel's security. The mismanagement of the Lebanon war was an almost foreseeable tragedy. Despite some minor failings at the field level, it's clear even before the Winograd Commission delivers its interim report that the IDF's combat units acquitted themselves well in the fighting. What was so miserably lacking was any clear sense of direction from the top. Five months after the end of the war, we still don't know what its objectives were; there is no agreement over whether it was the right move to respond to Hizbullah's attack with an all-out offensive; and who actually won that war, that war that still remains unnamed? This muddled aftermath is a direct result of the inability of the political leadership to come up with a coherent strategy during the war and the chief of staff's failure to present military options for approval. Halutz's successor will have two urgent tasks to carry out in his first months of command. First, he will have to implement lessons drawn from the army's conduct during the war. Halutz has taken the first major step in that direction by setting up 40 teams that assessed the army's performance at all levels. In the second task, the successor has received no help from Halutz - he will have to return the IDF's high command to its proper position of fulfilling the elected government's directives. But he will not be able to accomplish this without a political leadership that understands military matters and is capable of issuing orders.