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SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Contrary to J Street and Media Claims, Former IDF Chief Halutz Is Hawkish on Iran

Lt. Gen. Halutz is actually making the argument, in an admittedly very circumspect manner, that it is the international community - that is, everyone besides Israel - which is to blame for the current cataclysm. Halutz even says that Israel may have to “go it alone.”
Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz at a rally in Tel Aviv last January.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz at a rally in Tel Aviv last January.
Photo Credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90

It is true that Halutz is definitely against “red lines.”  It is not, however, because he thinks it will interfere with continued diplomacy and will make a war with Iran more likely, as J Street  president Jeremy Ben-Ami, who attended the Wednesday night event, wrote.

Instead, Halutz doesn’t like red lines because he thinks they interfere with effective military strategies. He said, “you want to keep some uncertainty to confuse the other side.” In addition, red lines, if not strictly observed, can signal weakness.  When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005, red lines were announced: not one shot across the border.  Well, many shots were fired, Israel did not respond, and that failure hurt Israel’s military credibility.  In addition, red lines are not helpful because circumstances change, and international crises are fluid situations. Creating artificial and immovable lines only hamper military decision-making.

The clearest illustration of Halutz’s opposition to red lines is what he said near the end of his talk at Brookings, when he quoted Clint Eastwood, whom he referred to as “the famous actor at the Republican National Convention, when you have to shoot, shoot.  Don’t talk.  Do not say it, do it.”

In other words, if you have red lines, there is no need to announce it, just take the planned action when those lines are crossed.

Timing of Military Action

A major point of contention for those engaged in the discussion about Iran is the timing of when military action must be taken in order to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to create nuclear weapons.  While few suggest that military action should be taken before all other strategies have been attempted, there is still a cavernous gap in understanding when such action should be taken.

Most people agree that Israel’s military action clock is ticking at a faster pace than is the US administration’s military action clock.  That is understandable, as Halutz explained, “the risk Israel is taking is higher, Israel is directly threatened.”

What’s more, Halutz offered what could be described as a gun-shy tendency on the part of the US.  “I assume, as a human being, that once an organization gave information that led to an operation and the information was found not to be the most accurate, it creates a kind of hesitation for the next time.”

In other words, Halutz suggested that the Obama administration is leery of getting the kind of historic black eye the Bush administration received.  “In the US, you have the memory of Saddam with the unconventional weapon, so I assume that they will come and say, there is a green light, the only way the will be sure, is 100 percent, but there is no such thing as 100 percent.”  “And in Israel, 100 percent is not needed.”

Military Force as Last, last, last, last option

Still, Halutz has repeatedly stated that “military force is the last, last, last option.”  But what does that mean?  And can one ever know that something was the last option until one is already past that point?

The tweet sent out from the speech Wednesday night by J Street Local’s national advisory chair and Philadelphia resident Steve Masters, was “Israeli General Danny Halutz: there is still time to confront Iran’s nuclear development – there is no rush.”

But his full statement, which came in response to a question asked at the suburban Philadelphia synagogue was: “I think there is no rush to do it tomorrow, but we are taking a risk, we know what we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know.” He later was more specific: “There is time, it shouldn’t be tomorrow, not next week, maybe not in the next coming months,” but when asked about the announced Iranian elections in June, his response indicated that waiting until that point was not realistic.

So what does Halutz mean when he says that taking military action must be the last option?

That question was put to Halutz by Ken Pollack, Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution.  Halutz explained: “Last, last, last has nothing to do with a timetable.”  He continued, “it represents the efforts made in each area.”  “If, within a week, we finish all the diplomacy efforts successfully, then the sanctions are effective but nothing is achieved, maybe in two weeks we’ll come to the decision.”

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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16 Responses to “Contrary to J Street and Media Claims, Former IDF Chief Halutz Is Hawkish on Iran”

  1. Gil Gilman says:

    There is not much to argue with in this article, if anything. In fact, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz seems to have a firm grasp on the facts, and his analysis is impeccable. As to why J Street would tout one half of his comment at the expense of the full idea, they are like all other self serving. self proclaimed. scholars with an axe to grind. It is not about truth, or reality if you prefer, it is about their stake in the game. They will do anything to advance their agenda and maintain their fan base and funding. This is the same with ideologues the world over. They are aloof, and in their ivory towers, removed from the hurly burly and won't suffer as those in the maelstrom.

  2. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    One question, Gil, why do you refer to J Street as scholars?

  3. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    One question, Gil, why do you refer to J Street as scholars?

  4. Mikey Pasek says:

    It is worth considering the fact that J Street might actually understand nuance, and that J Street shares the US government's position that all options must be on the table. Having attended General Haloutz's talk at the Brookings, I can say that the General did indeed criticize Netanyahu's call for red lines, and argued that they hurt Israel's own cause…I urge you to not be as partisan as you claim J Street to be, but to talk about issues and not groups. By focusing on accusations of groups you do a disservice to out communal conversation and threaten the important discourse that must occur.

  5. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    Thanks for commenting, Mikey, but may I suggest you read, or re-read the article. It focuses on what Gen. Halutz said, including his full statements on red lines, as opposed to what at least 2 J Street officials represented those statement to be. In my opinion, it is a "disservice to our communal conversation" and makes impossible "the important discourse that must occur" when the views of military leaders are caricatured to fit a particular political viewpoint. In terms of specifics – e.g. the sanctions exemptions and the reduction in American forces involved in joint military exercises with the IDF – Gen. Halutz was more critical of this US administration than he was of the Israeli one, but it was clear his focus is on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, not electing a particular president or prime minister. As it should be.

  6. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    Thanks for commenting, Mikey, but may I suggest you read, or re-read the article. It focuses on what Gen. Halutz said, including his full statements on red lines, as opposed to what at least 2 J Street officials represented those statement to be. In my opinion, it is a "disservice to our communal conversation" and makes impossible "the important discourse that must occur" when the views of military leaders are caricatured to fit a particular political viewpoint. In terms of specifics – e.g. the sanctions exemptions and the reduction in American forces involved in joint military exercises with the IDF – Gen. Halutz was more critical of this US administration than he was of the Israeli one, but it was clear his focus is on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, not electing a particular president or prime minister. As it should be.

  7. Gil Gilman says:

    lol…I should have said self-proclaimed experts. I don't regard the J Street peace at any cost philosophy as scholarship, but the word really means nothing except nachas. I also desire peace, but realize that peace without my existence is no peace at all. Sometimes true peace comes after sacrifice, sometimes through diplomacy. Diplomacy and sanctions didn't work against the monsters of WWII, and there are numerous ideologies, cultures, and potentates against whom they won't work today.

  8. J Street not only threatens Israel and America with their slander they risk their souls.

    All Israel has a share in the world to come except slanderers.

  9. Mikey Pasek, you sound like Neville Chamberlain and you must know the consequences if you are wrong. Will you go and live in Israel and wait for the nuke and then say you were wrong from the sky or in the dirt? Wake up. Israel has been warned they are first and we, in the United States are next. They want to hang their Islamic Flag over the White House and with people like you, they will succeed. Easy to make comments and take chances when you are here in a safe place but how long will it be safe with this President? I hope you do not give him your vote. All Jews should not give this Pres a vote who snubs the head of the Jewish State of Israel. He will see the Pres of Egypt, of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has declared they will not keep the peace with Israel but ignored P.M. Netanyahu while both were in New York yesterday. I will assume you are the ones who were friends with Arafat and I rarely assume.

  10. Mikey Pasek, you sound like Neville Chamberlain and you must know the consequences if you are wrong. Will you go and live in Israel and wait for the nuke and then say you were wrong from the sky or in the dirt? Wake up. Israel has been warned they are first and we, in the United States are next. They want to hang their Islamic Flag over the White House and with people like you, they will succeed. Easy to make comments and take chances when you are here in a safe place but how long will it be safe with this President? I hope you do not give him your vote. All Jews should not give this Pres a vote who snubs the head of the Jewish State of Israel. He will see the Pres of Egypt, of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has declared they will not keep the peace with Israel but ignored P.M. Netanyahu while both were in New York yesterday. I will assume you are the ones who were friends with Arafat and I rarely assume.

  11. Peter Shalen says:

    Thanks for the informative article, Dorothy!

  12. Charlie Hall says:

    Israelis, and Israel supporters need to understand something: The President of the US can never and will never allow another country, no matter how friendly, to force it into war.

    Had Netanyahu been the head of government of any country than Israel, he would have been slapped down hard by all sides of the US political spectrum. In particular, the extreme right in the US, which doesn't even want the US in NATO, would be going nuts. I'm really surprised that Netanyahu, who grew up in the US, does not understand this. His machinations have alienated strong Israel supporters like Barbara Boxer. It is a measure of the strong support for Israel across the US political spectrum that there hasn't been such a reaction.

    The fact is that the US is in no position to support an extended military campaign in the region. If Israel attacks Iran, it will have to be on its own until such time as the US can get its remaining 60,000 troops out of Afghanistan. This needs to happen sooner rather than later in order to deal with the real threat, which is Iran.

  13. The troops can march through Iran and get aboard ship in the Persian Gulf. :-)

  14. Thank Barbara Ledeen as when I went to send her a message, I discovered the Jewish Press here in Washington. Keep an eye on it if I cannot, Peter.

  15. Charlie Hall says:

    Simon H Gedney, I just noticed that comment. The US has 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. The Iranian regular army is something like seven times that size, and that doesn't even count the Revolutionary Guard. Furthermore, most of Iran is difficult, mountainous terrain. What you suggest would be a suicide march.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Forces_of_the_Islamic_Republic_of_Iran

  16. I am familiar with Iran's topography. I am also familiar with its low-level insurrections in Kurdistan, Arabistan and Baluchistan. Farsi-speakers may be a minority in Iran now. Also, an increasing number of both RG and army troops (which have not really been effective) are being diverted to Syria and, probably, Lebanon. Moreover, the current detente between Iran and Turkey will probably be short-lived, if history may be a a guide. So, Iran is putting itself in a position to be squeezed by its ethnic minorities, by the Turks, by its own internal dissensions, and by the US.

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