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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

But doubling back to how the different strategies interrelate, Halutz explained that there are subparts to the use of force.  A useful way to psychologically exercise the use of force option that doesn’t actually require military action against the opponent is through what he called “force projection.”

That is important, and one way to utilize force projection is through joint military exercises.  Such joint efforts show the enemy – including the enemy’s allies and the general population – that one side has not only impressive military equipment, but also impressive and intimidating allies backing each other.  It shows, he said, “that we mean business, because you can’t convince the Iranians only through diplomacy to come to the table, to negotiate, and agree.”

But misteps also have consequences.

Halutz pointed out that “reducing the volume or size of exercise between the Israeli forces and the American forces is an indication in the wrong direction.”  That was a clear reference to a “massive” reduction of US troops sent for a joint exercise with Israel, reported at the end of last month.

US-Israel Relations

Another point J Street pushed is that Prime Minister Netanyahu is very foolish for picking a fight with President Obama over the Iran issue.  In fact, in J Street’s view, apparently, Netanyahu is more damaging to Israel than what some perceive of as Obama’s poor treatment of Israel.

Wednesday night a J Street official tweeted, “Dani Halutz: current political fight over Iran policy threatening most impt rel. Israel has – with US.”   Halutz did say that Israel’s relationship with the United States is the most important one it has, and, further, that, “we [Israel] need the US more than they need us.”

But when pushed on Tuesday by James Kitfield from National Journal Magazine and Michael Adler of the Wilson Center to comment on the apparent high level of discord between the Israeli and American heads of state, Halutz refused to take the bait.

“The importance of the good relations between the American people and the American Administration to the Israeli people and Israeli Administration is of the highest importance to Israel.  Period.” But he refused to place all the blame on the Israeli prime minister.  In fact, he said “both sides took part in climbing too high.”

He suggested that “in some areas the relations are excellent, and in some areas, mainly the political level, it suffers from declaration and counter-declaration that are made here and there, some of them are serving the internal politics of each country, some of them are serving the case itself.”

Halutz tried valiantly to make the argument we have all been hearing from Israeli leadership for years.  That is, that a nuclear-armed Iran is not only a problem for Israel, it is a problem for the entire Middle East, and for all of western civilization.   He emphasized that if Iran achieves its goal it will lead to a race to acquire nuclear weapons for countries throughout the Middle East, starting with Turkey, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. “No one will leave [Iran] to be a nuclear super power in this region.” That regional instability would have global repercussions.

But the truth is, as Halutz reluctantly admitted, it may be that Israel will have to “go it alone.”  Ironically, what may be forcing that result more than any perceived military eagerness on the part of Israel is the international reluctance to take tough intermediate steps now.  The unwillingness to impose firm, wide and globally-imposed sanctions, the sugared coffee instead of real teeth diplomacy, and the reduced ability to present a “force projection” may combine to cause exactly what no one wants, and that is the need to move – sooner rather than later – to the “last, last, last, last” option.

If that is the case, Halutz made clear at each talk, “no one should ever underestimate Israel’s capability.”

 

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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