Photo: Shaul Golan
New Army Chief Halutz
Photo: Shaul Golan
New army chief appointed
Former air force commander Dan Halutz to lead IDF into Gaza pullout, Mofaz decides

TEL AVIV - Major General Dan Halutz will be the next IDF Chief-of-Staff, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has decided.


The married father of three holds a BA in economics from Hebrew university. The appointment marks the first time an air force officer is selected to fill the IDF's top job.


Halutz was born in Tel Aviv in 1948 and filled a variety of roles in the air force before being appointed air force commander in 2000. He became a combat pilot in 1968, took part in the War of Attrition, and carried out about 40 operational sorties.


Halutz left the IDF in 1973 to pursue his studies, but returned to his squadron following the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. During the war, he flew over 40 sorties.


In July 2004, he was appointed as Deputy Chief-of-Staff.


'I sleep well at night' 


However, the appointment has elicited harsh reactions among left-wing politicians, in light of controversial remarks made by Halutz in the past following the assassination of Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh.


At the time, Halutz said he "sleeps well at night" following the killing, even though Palestinian civilians also died in the strike.


Yachad Party Knesset Member Yossi Sarid said Halutz’s nomination marks an historic event, “because for the first time the IDF is headed by someone who sleeps well at night after 14 innocent people have been killed.”


The appointment is a violation of the IDF’s ‘purity of arms’ code, Knesset Member Ran Cohen, also of Yachad, said.


Not all Yachad party members, however, criticized the nomination. Party leader Yossi Beilin said he wishes Halutz success.


Former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, meanwhile, said the Halutz's appointment “proves Mofaz intends to bomb Iran and instigate a war.”


The appointment of Dan Halutz is a grave step that flies in the face of the current positive atmosphere, Hadash party Secretary General Ouda Bashrat said.


"Whoever sleeps well after Palestinian children are murdered…should face justice at the International War Crimes Court and not be appointed as army chief," he said.


Problematic relations with Mofaz


However, not everyone is upset at Halutz' nomination, with right-wing politicians expressing their satisfaction with the appointment.


Knesset Member Uri Ariel (National Union) congratulated Halutz on his appointment, but said he was puzzled the nomination entailed the dismissal of a competent acting chief of staff.


Knesset Member Arieh Eldad (National Union) also praised the nomination, but added he “feels sorry for Halutz for having to carry out the criminal task imposed on him – the uprooting of settlements.”


“I hope he is aware of the moral crisis the IDF is going through, and because he is one of the army’s symbols, he holds a responsibility to reimpose the moral norms the IDF is based on.”


Indeed, the former air force commander is slated to assume the new post during one of the most difficult times in the army's history, the beginning of the Gaza and northern West Bank pullout.


Last week, Mofaz announced that he would not be extending current Army Chief Moshe Yaalon's term by another year, marking the first time in the IDF's history the decision has been made.


Mofaz's decision drew fire from both security officials and politicians.


The defense minister, however, said the decision was principled, and that the next army chief would also be limited to a three year term.


However, the genuine reason for Yaalon's early dismissal appears to be a problematic working relationship with Mofaz.


First published: 22.02.05, 17:22
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