IDF Major General Yiftah Ron-Tal, in a rare departure from serving officers' customary avoidance of political statements in public, said Wednesday that Chief of Staff Dan Halutz should take responsibility for the failure of the war with Hezbollah, and leave his post.
Ron-Tal, former head of the IDF Ground Forces Command, hinted that he believed that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should step down as well.
Halutz Wednesday summoned Ron-Tal to discuss his remarks, which were later condemned by the IDF Spokesman's Office in a harshly worded statement.
"Those who directed this war must take responsibility," Ron-Tal told Israel Radio, in an expression widely used as a euphemism for resignation, a usage Ron-Tal declined to deny at several points during his remarks.
"We did not win this war, and it is proper that those who directed it should take responsibility."
Ron-Tal said Wednesday he stood behind remarks he made inn an interview with a Chabad weekly, in which he said: "From the military standpoint, the war ended in failure, and the chief of staff, like other senior commanders, should take responsibility.
"All his life, he has prepared himself for the moment that he would direct a war, and he has no way to duck responsibility for the war and its results," Ron-Tal said. "I believe in taking responsibility, with all the difficulty and pain this generates."
Referring to the Chabad weekly interview, Ron-Tal said Wednesday "I stand behind this, and I think that there is little argument about this, that the commanders of the army should take responsibility for what happened in this war."
He called the decision to have the IDF implement the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip "a serious mistake, for which we are still paying the price." Carrying out the disengagement harmed the army's training program and its readiness for the war with Hezbollah, he said.
Ron-Tal dismissed suggestions that his remarks were inappropriate for a soldier in uniform, saying that he was formally on leave prior to his retirement and had not been in an active command position in the army for a year.
But the IDF Spokesman's Office said in response "It is improper for an officer on retirement leave and receiving a salary from from the IDF to criticize the governmental echelon. The matter is graver still in view of the fact that the major general was a member of the General Staff and was a partner to all the processes and the decisions, among them the disengagement."