In order to lead, we have to fully realize our accountability, preaches Dan Halutz in his resignation letter. The word "accountability" repeats several times throughout the letter. The frequent use of it creates the sense that, indeed, the resigning army chief finally realizes the meaning of accountability. Perhaps he even understands how he failed under its burden and his inability to show it when he needed to do so, when he sent both soldiers and civilians to their deaths in the war.
Yet a closer look at the letter makes it clear this is not the case: Halutz wishes to leave his post as someone who did well in all his missions and was not tainted at all by failure, insensitivity, mistakes, or the need to admit them. Worse than that: "Accountability" in his letter is interpreted as a continuation of that same indecent preparation of excuses of that same malignant spin industry that leads decision-makers in our public life.
It is very difficult to find an exhaustive, full definition to the essence of "accountability," that same demand entrenched in a person through the essence of his relations with other and through humans being rational creatures able to examine their own actions without blaming others for their decisions. Humans always tried to blame, but to begin with, in Heaven, it was made clear that this trick doesn’t work: Eve blamed the snake, Adam blamed Eve, and God watching from above was the only one who clearly made a distinction between the snake's guilt to Adam and Eve's accountability for their own actions.
In modern war, in a world that for a long time now has not been Heaven, among leaders who have no God, "personal responsibility" starts with the recognition that in a hierarchical human society, a "commander" is a person in charge of the very life of people. This life is sanctified. There's nothing simpler than that and nothing more important than that. Due to this sanctity, decisions that will decide fates have to be taken, and due to the duty of loyalty to the entire public we must have personal recognition of failure, the ability to admit it, and the willingness to go home as someone who carried this burden on his shoulders and failed.
In Halutz's letter there is nothing that attests to an understanding this is how things are. On the contrary: The war in Lebanon is not interpreted as a disgraceful failure. There is no admission to even one needless operation in this letter, not even one terrible and needless death, one concrete mistake. The letter certainly does not surprise those who watched Halutz's public conduct during the war and after it. Do you remember his repeated attempts to hint to the failures of others who came before him at the post and others in the decision-making system? Remember his display of arrogance, when he was asked by journalist Ilana Dayan how he will respond to the difficult claims against him and replied: "I don’t care?" This shows that he did not know and did not understand at all what accountability means.
Even the deeds he prides himself on – the appointment of investigators for the war's failures – were partial, technical deeds that resulted from ongoing public pressure. They were meant to identify guilty parties, remove mid-level officials, and keep the failure away from Halutz himself. The investigators were supposed to back the person who heads the system, because they too came from within in: Only when the hope for solidarity on the part of other officers, which was so effective for many years within the IDF, started to wane, only then did Halutz understand he must go home. Admit to mistakes? No, that did not happen.
When he writes about "fully realizing his responsibility" Halutz is wrong and misleading. In order to fully realize it, one needs to understand and admit. Understanding doesn't mean "I allowed investigations into what happened after it happened," but rather, "I did my best as the commander in chief in order to prevent what happened and did not succeed," or "I did not do, and therefore I failed."
Meanwhile, "admitting" means saying wholeheartedly, to the media and the general public, that the decisions that led to the outbreak of war were taken without thinking about the sanctity of life; admitting that he did not know how unprepared the army was for such war; that he was not interested at all in the lives of citizens that became sitting ducks; that he was willing to be the adjutant of politicians whose moves he did not agree to, or agreed through complete disregard to the lives he was in charge of. This is the meaning of accountability, it is personal and cannot be transferred, and is not limited to the existence of investigations or work plans for the coming years.
Halutz's letter does not show a hint of accountability. In a public arena ruled by spin, he may even enjoy sympathy and understanding that will send him back to his home as a model of personal example, only because he chose to resign before he was fully hit by the mud of irresponsibility.
The "regret" expressed by the prime minister over the resignation also attests to a blatant desire not to understand what accountability is: Had he wanted to understand, he should have expressed regret over the deeds and failures that led to Halutz's resignation – and accept the resignation as taken for granted. Yet then he would have exposed himself as someone responsible for those same failures in light of his position and status. Is there anyone within the political establishment or outside of it who will remind the prime minister this is his duty in order to be worthy of leading?