Halutz says cuts leave IDF mediocre

Exclusive: Warns 2007 could turn out to be "darker" than this year.

halutz looks tough 298.8 (photo credit: IDF [file])
halutz looks tough 298.8
(photo credit: IDF [file])
Ongoing cuts such as this week's NIS 510 million reduction in the defense budget will turn the IDF into a mediocre military, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz has warned in an exclusive interview. And a mediocre military, he added, is something the State of Israel cannot afford. "Overall, the way the defense budget is handled by people outside the defense establishment is unprofessional," a fuming Halutz told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on the eve of Shavuot, a date marking his first anniversary in the job. "I don't want to sound apocalyptic, but the way the budget is now and the way they want it to be will turn the defense establishment into a mediocre establishment." Halutz also warned of the growing rise in Islamic extremism around the globe, saying that 2007 could turn out to be "darker" than this year as a consequence. Islamic fundamentalism, he said, was growing stronger and the process of democratization in certain Muslim countries was not producing moderate leaders. Turning to Iran, Halutz said that it had yet to cross the technical threshold in its nuclear program and could still retreat from its decision to develop nuclear weapons. He said that Israel did not need to deal with the Iranian threat on its own and that it was a "global problem." "The concept of 'too late' is not applicable here," he said, "since this is a decision [to achieve a nuclear capability] that can be reversed and retracted." Halutz said diplomatic efforts on the Iranian front should be fully exhausted. "They [Iran] can change their minds." Speaking to the Post two days after Hizbullah lit up the northern border by firing rockets at Israeli targets, Halutz said he could not confidently declare that the Lebanese terror group would not try to attack again. The response to the attacks, the harshest since the IDF withdrew from southern Lebanon six years ago, was meant "to make it clear to them that they are not the only ones who determine the height of the flames when they light a fire. We also have control over the fire." Turning to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "realignment" withdrawal plan from the West Bank, Halutz said he had yet to receive any orders to begin preparing for such a pullout. But if such orders were given, the army would know how to obey and implement them, he said. The so-called rift between the IDF and the national-religious camp was not as bad as the media reported, Halutz added. It required "treatment" but was not terrible. He also rejected criticism by some elements on the Right that he was not helping the situation by making comments that they have claimed alienate the religious camp. "They should stop pretending to be innocent and to wash their hands clean, since their hands are not clean," he said. "I will continue speaking my truth even if it does not find favor in the eyes of Rabbi A, C or D or Z." (The full interview with Halutz is on page 13.)