Hinting that the diplomatic echelon held the IDF back from launching a widespread ground incursion up to the Litani River, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam said Saturday that the military was prepared already close to two weeks ago to launch the operation.
"The plan was ready days ago and before the recent [diplomatic] events," Adam said. "The moment we got permission we launched the operation."
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said that had the military rushed into Lebanon in the first days of the war, it would have been thrown out of the country by the international community. "A ground incursion takes time to build," he told Channel 10 in a televised interview. Halutz added that he was not afraid of an inquiry commission that might be set up following the war to investigate the decision-making process that led to the launching of the ground operation over a month after war erupted with Hizbullah.
"There are things that need to be inspected," he said. "Including the question of how we got to this situation [war with Hizbullah] six years [after the withdrawal from Lebanon] and how the defense budget reached the point that it cannot provide for Israel's basic defensive needs."
Adam rolled the ball into the diplomatic echelon's court, claiming: "For 10 days already we have had the needed amount of manpower and the moment the diplomatic echelon made the decision we launched the offensive. The Northern Command was ready from the moment we were told to begin the offensive."
Halutz also referred to the return of the kidnapped IDF soldiers - Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser - claiming that there was no set date for their immediate return. But, he said, the soldiers' return was mentioned in the cease-fire draft accepted by the United Nations Security Council on Friday.
"I believe that the fighting can create the right mechanism for the return of the kidnapped soldiers since we are holding Hizbullah terrorists," Halutz said. "They want their men back just like we want ours back."
Responding to criticism that IDF failed when it decided not to launch a ground offensive until now, Halutz said: "I never said that the war would be determined from the air. I expressed hope that we would not need to enter on the ground at the beginning stages."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had rejected such criticism from the army earlier in the week, saying Monday: "Regarding the military operation, up until yesterday morning (Sunday) no operative plan was brought to me to widen the picture beyond the lines where the IDF is today," Olmert said, his words coming across as a bit defensive.
"I have heard all kinds of things, and read all types of articles in the press: I repeat my statement: I met yesterday, together with the defense minister, with the northern commander and with all the top army officers, and told them what I am telling you now. There has not been one case along the way that a proposal for military operations was brought for our approval and was not approved.
"Yesterday was the first time, I stress the first time, that a proposal was brought to us to deviate from the lines beyond where the army is today. I approved bringing that proposal to the security cabinet, and the security cabinet will deal with it tomorrow, we will deal with it and at the end of the day there will be a decision."