After Midnight: IDF Chief of Staff Quits

Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz tendered his resignation early Wed. morning to PM Olmert and Def. Min. Peretz, not bothering to wait for the Winograd Commission's findings on the Lebanon War.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 1:15 AM

In his letter of resignation, the Chief of Staff clarified that his responsibility as a commander and as the head of the IDF staff are what led him to remain in duty until the investigations were completed. He said he wished to remain in his position until the 2007 IDF work plan was completed, oriented around the lessons learned from the war.

Halutz said he will remain in the post until his successor is chosen, and will work to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

The resignation did not come as a total surprise, as calls for Halutz's resignation had been sounded widely and often ever since the disappointing end of the summer war in Lebanon.

Coupled with Tuesday's announcement of the police investigation against Prime Minister Olmert, calls for Olmert's resignation and new elections are now expected to gain in force.

Though Olmert had known in advance of Halutz's intentions, senior IDF officers did not - and they were shocked. One officer quoted by the Ynet Hebrew news site said that the resignation of the IDF's chief officer is not a reason for celebration, and that Hizbullah sees it as its victory.

Halutz, a former Air Force commander, did not bother waiting for the Winograd Committee's conclusions, which were not expected to be especially favorable towards him and the way the army was managed during the war with Hizbullah.

Several internal inquiries are being conducted into the government's and army's handling of the 34-day conflict. Both bodies were widely criticized for failing to achieve the stated war aims.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz expressed his admiration for and appreciation of Halutz's "many years of contribution to Israel's security."

The War
Israel attacked the Lebanon-based Hizbullah last July after the terrorist group captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid and launched Katyusha rockets on Israeli cities and towns.

But Israel failed to free the IDF soldiers - who still remain in captivity - or soundly defeat Hizbullah before a ceasefire ended the fighting in August. Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah claimed a strategic victory over Israel.

The Israeli army lost 119 soldiers, and 41 Israeli civilians were also killed by more than 4,000 Hizbullah rocket attacks.

About 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the conflict, mostly civilians in Israel's bombardment of the county and land invasion in the south. Israeli military sources said hundreds of Hizbullah terrorists were also killed.

Gen. Halutz was personally criticised for relying on aerial barrages in the early days of the war, which caused extensive damage to Lebanon's infrastructure - but failed to halt the Katyusha attacks or free the kidnapped soldiers.

No IDF Chief of Staff has resigned since David (Dado) Elazar quit shortly after the Yom Kippur War.

Halutz, the IDF's 18th Chief of Staff, assumed the post in 2005, shortly before the army's primary mission that year - the expulsion of 9,000 Jews from Gush Katif and northern Shomron. His predecessors included Moshe Yaalon, Sha'ul Mofaz, Ehud Barak, Rafael (Raful) Eitan, Yitzchak Rabin, Moshe Dayan and Yigal Yadin, among others.

Baruch Gordon and Gil Zohar contributed to this story.