An earthquake in the military and political echelons: IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz resigned Tuesday night. He reported his resignation to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
He intended to report his resignation to the IDF general staff Wednesday morning, but, from fear of leaks, decided to issue a public statement Wednesday, slightly after midnight.
Halutz is set to meet with members of the General Staff at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv and bid them farewell Wednesday morning.
Olmert expressed deep sorrow over the decision. The prime minister, who knew beforehand that Halutz was going to resign, asked him to reconsider, but according to the PM's Office, Halutz's decision was decisive and as such, Olmert has no choice but to accept it.
Officials in the Defense Ministry said to Ynet that Halutz notified Defense Minister Amir Peretz of his intention to resign.
"Peretz didn't try to convince the chief of staff to remain in his position, and honored his decision. Halutz needed to do this a long time ago," one official said.
Those surrounding Peretz are concerned that following this development, the defense minister himself will be asked to resign. "This could be a snow ball even though there is no connection between Halutz's responsibilities and the defense minsiter's responsibilities," an associate of Peretz told Ynet.
Senior IDF officers who heard the resignation announcement told Ynet that they were amazed. "We received no notice of this," they said. "This is a surprising move, particularly after his confident appearance during the senior officials meeting."
"It seems that he was going to sit out his tenure despite everything," they stated.
One of the officers said that Halutz should have announced his decision to senior officers and explained it. "We didn't expect this to happen after the confidence that he displayed," he said.
There were those among the officers who declared that Halutz's resignation was a victory for Hizbullah. "Everyone who is glad of this must remember that this is not a holiday for the IDF," they said.
Waited for investigation findings, then left
Since the end of the second Lebanon war, many voices called for the Chief of General Staff to leave his post. Among them were senior politicians and a movement of reservists.
The sword of the Winograd commission, which was investigating the war, was also swinging over Halutz's head, although he did not wait for them to issue their intermediate report before resigning.
IDF sources explained that the general made his decision once investigations of the war came to an end, and after the 2007 annual military schedule was approved.
The prime candidates to replace Halutz are his current deputy Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky and the Director General of the Ministry of Defense, former Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. (res.) Gaby Ashkenazy.
Despite vast pressure exerted on Halutz recently, pursuant to the second Lebanon war, the general originally seemed poised for the opposite action.
In a press conference presenting the post-war investigation findings, Halutz said "I haven't heard calls from my superiors for me to leave. When they tell me to, I'll respond."
Halutz addressed the imminent report by the Winograd commission, expected in February, and stated that if the commission took a different stance, he would comply "as it required."
"I chose to take responsibility," said Halutz. "There are those who interpret responsibility as running away. I chose to deal with the investigation and a nation demanding a solution. That is responsibility."
Critique of Halutz
Only Tuesday morning, former IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen (res.) Dan Shomron, who reviewed Halutz's performance during the recent war, criticized him harshly for his flawed management of the conflict.
Tuesday afternoon, he presented the Knesset's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee with his conclusions, declaring that this summer's war "was run without any goal."
According to Shomron, "The prime minister instructed the army to halt the rocket fire on Israel , but the army failed to translate it into a military objective." Shomron stressed that Halutz could help the IDF recover.
During his presentation to the committee, Shomron revealed a detail which could testify to Halutz 's fear of leaks, even among the General Staff members.
According to Shomron, the army chief prevented the distribution of the report that he had prepared. After Shomron handed out the report findings to the General Staff members, Halutz asked to collect the copies at the end of the meeting, something that was not done in previous inquiries conducted by the army.
Army sources said that the reason for this action was that "the report was a preliminary, not a final draft."
Ronny Sofer and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report