IDF General Staff, Halutz blasted in Almog report

IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Friday that he would decide within two weeks how to respond to the findings of an internal military probe into the July 12 Hizbullah abduction of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser and regarding the fate of Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch, Galilee Division Commander at the time. The report presented on Friday by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, former OC Southern Command, harshly criticized the General Staff and Halutz in particular. Almog refrained from recommending any personal sanctions against specific officers although he did list a series of flaws he found in the performance of the Northern Command, the Operations Directorate, led before the war by now OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and Military Intelligence, led by Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin. "Their preparedness didn't pay proper consideration for the possibility of a kidnapping incident as a strategic measure leading to a war," Almog wrote in the report. On November 12, Almog presented the interim findings of his investigation to Halutz in which he blamed Hirsch and Division 91 for the kidnapping. Hirsch, in response, submitted his resignation to the chief of staff but has since reconsidered and on Friday appeared before a panel of generals, which heard his defense to the Almog report. Sources close to Hirsch said Friday that the officer was being made a "scapegoat" of the probe into the kidnapping. After Hirsch testified, several other officers including Col. Raviv Nir, commander of Brigade 769, appeared before the committee in defense of their commanding officer. Hirsch rejected the claims against him by Almog that he was not prepared for the possibility of a kidnapping, and argued that the former general conducted his probe negligently after having decided ahead of time that he was at fault. Former OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gideon Shefer said he hoped Halutz would allow Hirsch to remain in the IDF. "Hirsch is an honest man whose knowledge and ability will be missed by the IDF. I hope that he remains in the army," Shefer said.