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October 5, 2006
Israel Sacks Its Toughest War Critic

It seems that Israel has found its analogy to Douglas MacArthur. Just as the legendary American general forced his own cashiering onto Harry Truman by intimating that the President lacked the will to win in Korea, Major General Yiftah Ron-Tal criticized his superior publicly and got a discharge for his trouble:

Israel's army chief fired a top general Wednesday over his criticism of the war in Lebanon and government policy, the army said.

The dismissed officer, Maj. Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal gave unauthorized interviews to several Israeli news media earlier Wednesday, an army statement said.

Ron-Tal said army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz must "accept responsibility" for the shortcomings of Israel's 34-day war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, which ended Aug. 14.

Halutz, in a letter to Ron-Tal, said he was terminating the general's stay in the military immediately. Halutz said Ron-Tal's decision to make public statements was "unacceptable," the army statement said.

Just as with MacArthur, Halutz made the right decision in the specifics of the event. Active-duty officers in a military force of a democracy should not get involved in politics, and Ron-Tal definitely indulged himself with the Israeli press. He has done this before, publicly dissenting from the unilateral Gaza withdrawal. Ron-Tal criticized foreign policy in that case, but in the incidents that caused his dismissal, he undermined the authority of his commanding officers.

In a broader sense, however, Halutz has big problems. He has had to fire two commanding generals in the war against Hezbollah. The other, Udi Adam, got relieved in the midst of the fighting. The Israeli public has little confidence left in the management of Halutz and the government of Ehud Olmert. Israelis, like Americans in 1952, will probably be more inclined to support the fired general than the political leadership.

In the end, Truman proved MacArthur wrong in the strategic sense even if MacArthur had it correct tactically. Perhaps time will exonerate Halutz and Olmert as well. If they can wrest a stable peace in the region with their lackadaisical war effort and seriously flawed cease-fire, the politicians may see their fortunes rise. At this moment, though, it looks as though history will treat Ron-Tal much kinder than either Halutz or Olmert.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 5, 2006 4:52 AM

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