Peretz to convene urgent meeting of General Staff

IDF spokesperson's office releases statement denying reports Halutz planned to resign.

peretz leaves car 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
peretz leaves car 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz has called for an urgent meeting of the General Staff on Wednesday in an attempt to stabilize the IDF amid renewed calls for the resignation of Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz over the military's poor performance during the war in Lebanon and the recent resignation of Division 91 Commander, Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch. The IDF spokesperson's office released a statement on Wednesday denying reports that Halutz planned to resign. The reports quoting alleged close associates of Halutz, the IDF spokesperson's office said, were speculative and did not represent the chief of staff's official position. Halutz, as well as other IDF generals, the spokesperson's office said in the statement, were busy completing investigations into the IDF's performance in the recent war in Lebanon. Following the statement, Halutz told NRG that "I hear the rumors. I didn't even know that I had 'close' associates - just so that's clear. I have no intention to resign. I am continuing to do what needs to be done." Halutz added that "fighting the enemy is easy. It's much easier than dealing with 'colleagues' who speak your language and try to breathe down your neck - and every one of them knows why." On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Peretz threw their support behind the embattled Halutz. Olmert phoned Halutz from Washington on Tuesday to tell him personally that reports the prime minister had refrained from coming out in his support were incorrect. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Olmert was "dumbfounded" by reports that he refused to back Halutz. The sources said that Olmert had full confidence in Halutz and gave him his full backing. The sources said the reports would "not have an impact on the excellent relationship between them." The reports of a rift grew out of a briefing Olmert gave to reporters in Washington on Monday during which he was asked three times about the calls for Halutz's resignation. He said that these calls were not serious and that he did not feel compelled to respond to rumors. In his first public reaction to the renewed calls for his resignation, Halutz declared Tuesday that he did not intend to quit the IDF. "There are those who make calls and those who do things," Halutz said as he accompanied Peretz on a tour of the Tze'elim training base in the South. "We are on the side that does things and we will continue to do what is necessary to meet the goal ... [of having a] better-trained, higher-quality army." Peretz said the press should stop speculating about the nature of his relationship with Halutz. Two weeks ago, Peretz refused to approve a number of appointments Halutz wanted to make in the IDF, claiming it was a premature move and one that would only be made after the inquiry committees investigating the IDF's performance during the war completed their work. "I intend to give my full support to the chief of staff and the IDF," Peretz said. "We [Halutz and I] have an excellent work relationship with all that means. We work together and it is time to stop the slander festival." Earlier in the day, a close friend of Halutz, Kobi Hayun, supported the chief of staff's decision to stick it out. "The option of his resigning is the easy way out, without having to cause harm to anyone," Hayun said. "Danny chose the more complicated way of taking responsibility and I think that his strength of character for staying should be appreciated." Peretz added that he had ordered the IDF to immediately begin mass training for service brigades and reservists. The last time a brigade-level exercise was held in the IDF was in 2000. "We plan to invest already in the remaining months of 2006 in more training than in the past," Peretz said. "2007 will be the year during which reserve forces will undergo training that will enhance their operational capabilities."