The first rule for every warrior is to know when to withdraw. Dan Halutz knew well there was no way out. He realized the Winograd Commission is about to bite deep into what is left of his professional and public prestige. The pilot surveyed the enemy planes before him through his black sunglasses, put two and two together, and chose a tactic that says: You want me as a scapegoat? You got it.
Halutz's decision is the right one on several levels, ranging from the national to the personal. Nationally, the war in Lebanon gave rise to too many question marks regarding Halutz that were about to turn into exclamation marks very soon. A person who may have to lead the IDF into the next war cannot stand before commanders with this mark of Cain all over his shirt alongside the decorations.
But Halutz also made the right decision in personal terms, because he realized something important: There's nothing Israeli society loves more than to forgive those who underwent the required "I did wrong" process. Any sin can be cleansed, if enough time passes and if the responsible party goes home, waits a little, and then explains that he changed. Israeli politics is replete with such examples (Ehud Barak is the latest one,) and Halutz counts on his own public career also being boosted at the end. No longer will they be saying: "Halutz? The man responsible for the failure in Lebanon," but rather, "Halutz, the only one who showed accountability for the failure in Lebanon."
Much has been said about the outgoing army chief's insensitivity (as also manifested through the stocks affair,) his Air Force arrogance, and his connection to politicians compared to his distance from the ground simple soldiers march on. Yet Halutz' great tragedy is that he made enemies for himself because he carried out, as he understood them, the political echelon's orders.
During the disengagement, a miserable move that he executed in a magnificent manner, he did what Ariel Sharon wanted; In Lebanon, he attempted to translate Olmert's and Peretz's rookie shouting into an offensive, which changed in accordance with the government's mood. And when the government lost its objective, direction, and path – he was left spinning in the air, absorbing the angry shots coming from the reservists, the bereaved families, and what is referred to as "the people."
Perhaps we will never really know what Dan Halutz said in the closed-sessions with the prime minister and defense minister during the days of the war. Perhaps the Winograd Commission is the one that will have to determine who issued the orders and who executed them; who was the lively spirit, and who was less so. Yet one thing is fairly clear at this point already: We demanded Dan Halutz's head – and we got it. One day the historians will sit down and tell us whether our pressure was right on, or whether it was directed at the wrong target.
This affair does not end with Halutz's head. This isn't 1973, and it's impossible that only the army and its top officials will be paying the price. It's impossible that they will investigate, be punished, and quit – while above, in a sweet cloud, Olmert's 78-member government will sit and enjoy life. Former US President Harry Truman had a famous sign on his White House desk that read: "The Buck stops here." This is the place where ultimate accountability lies, where it can no longer be pushed elsewhere. Is anyone willing to bet that Olmert and Peretz have no such sign?
Dan Halutz resigned, eventually, and this is what counts – he assumed responsibility for his actions, a move we have not seen many public figures doing in this unprecedented era of public service filth. Katsav continues, as well as Olmert, Peretz and many others, who fail to understand what we want from them. At least now we'll be able to look them in the eye and explain: We want Halutz from you. Be a little Halutz and show accountability.