Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Some Wise Words, but too late

Retiring General: Disengagement Led to IDF Failure in Lebanon
13:57 Oct 04, '06 / 12 Tishrei 5767
by Hillel Fendel

Maj.-Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, who retired from the army this year, says there is a clear link between the IDF's execution of the Disengagement from Gaza and its poor performance during the Lebanon war.

Ron-Tal last served as the IDF's Ground Forces Commander. Speaking with Voice of Israel Radio this morning, Ron-Tal said that the army's active participation in the expulsion of the Jews of Gush Katif and northern Shomron last year harmed its readiness for the war in Lebanon. "We are still paying the price of this mistake," he said.

Gen. Ron-Tal, who is still officially in the army, said that the "military and political echelons responsible for the warfare in Lebanon should take responsibility for the failure." Asked if he means that Olmert and Halutz should resign, he said, "That is usually what taking responsibility means."

"In June and July of 2005," Ron-Tal said, "the army was sufficiently ready to defeat Hizbullah - but the army dedicated most of its time to training for the Disengagement, at the expense of training [for war]. The army was not at a level that it could not fight, but during the first few days of warfare they had to remove rust... Was the army supposed to deal with Disengagement? It's not the army's job to expel Jews, which was something that was not in consensus, and as a people's army, it should not have had to do this."

In answer to a question, he said he does not intend to enter politics. Speaking earlier with the Kfar Chabad magazine, Ron-Tal said that for a country to volunteer to uproot its own communities is "an act of suicide... I still cannot understand how Israel gave up parts of its land so willingly and enthusiastically, and how it turned the residents who are so attached to the Land into criminals, instead of admiring their struggle to preserve the Jewish character of the State."

Ron-Tal said earlier this year that when he was faced with the choice of either resigning from the army or carrying out Disengagement orders, he deliberated, but chose the latter.

MK Uri Ariel, whip of the Knesset's National Union-National Religious Party faction, said that Ron-Tal's remarks against the army's participation in the Disengagement "reflect the opinion of most of the senior officers. The problem is that they don't stand firm in their position and did not say these things when it mattered." MK Ariel called on other IDF officers to reveal the extent of their opposition to the Disengagement.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz has summoned Gen. Ron-Tal for a "clarification" of his remarks. The IDF Spokesman said that it is "not appropriate for an officer on retirement leave who is receiving an army salary to express criticism of the State of Israel's political echelons. The matter is even more grave in light of the fact that Gen. Ron-Tal was a member of the IDF General Staff and was a partner to all the processes and decisions, including the Disengagement plan."

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said that Gen. Ron-Tal is correct in linking between the army's participation in the expulsion and its failure in the recent war. "The army wasted 4.5 million work days in order to expel 9,000 Jews from their homes," Eldad said, "and the Chief of Staff gave out certificates of excellence to the units that excelled in the expulsion. This is not the way to defeat Arabs."

MK Tzvi Hendel, also of the National Union, was one of the thousands of Jews expelled from their homes in Gush Katif last year. He heard Ron-Tal's remarks with bitterness, saying, "It's too bad that he did not have the courage to say this in real-time, though at least now he got up the strength to say what most of the General Staff thinks."

Hendel added, "During the expulsion from Gush Katif, it was specifically those who wore the IDF uniform who were obligated to warn the entire public against this dangerous and corrupt act, in order to save the IDF - which is precious to the entire public - from corruption and destruction."

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