Thursday, August 17, 2006

A post-modern Lieutenant-General

"I am the very image of a modern Major-General!"
(Gilbert and Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance)

ISRAELI chief of staff Dan Halutz earned notoriety as air force commander by his reply to what he felt when releasing a bomb that would kill civilians - "a slight bump in the plane". Seems bombs aren't all the general knows when to dump.

A halutz is a pioneer, always in the vanguard, and Dan Halutz was way ahead on July 12, anticipating how things would go in the Israeli economy. Of course you could say it was insider dealing, since he was in a position to know more than most about what was about to happen..

Just hours after Hizbollah fighters raided Shaba Farms and captured two Israeli soldiers, offering to trade them for Lebanese held by Israel, the Israeli commander knew what he must do. A report in Maariv this week said Halutz went to his bank branch and sold shares worth 120,000 shekels ($27,460) three hours after the soldiers were seized on July 12.

Key share indexes in Israel fell around 12 percent at the outset of the latest war triggered by the incident. Share prices gradually recovered and now stand slightly below pre-war levels."It was my portfolio of shares, on which I had lost 25,000 shekels," Maariv quoted Halutz as saying."It is true that I sold the portfolio on July 12 but it is impossible to link that to the war. At the time, I did not expect or think there would be a war," he said, according to Maariv.

As that other famous soldier "the Iron Duke" once said, "If you can believe that, gentlemen, you can believe anything". It was Israel that made clear it wasn't interested in negotiating, any more than it had been over 19-year old Gilad Shalit, captured and taken prisoner in Gaza. A day after the soldiers were captured, Israeli aircraft bombed runways at Beirut airport. Next it was power stations, and then on to apartment blocks. Soon bombs and rockets were falling faster than shares could tumble. Over 1,300 people have been killed in Lebanon, thousands wounded and almost a million made homeless. Over 100 Israelis were killed, mainly soldiers.

Halutz seems more upset by suggestions he contributed to a share fall than his responsibility for bloodshed. "This is a malicious, biased report. I do not know who is behind it and I do not plan to be dragged into a subject that besmirches my integrity."

Some Knesset members have called on Israel's attorney-general to open an investigation, and one called for Halutz's resignation.But market analysts said it did not appear Halutz had broken any insider trading laws. Halutz has been attacked by some Israeli military commentators for over-reliance on his air force in the early stages of the war instead of sending in large contingents of ground forces to try to halt the rocket attacks on northern Israel. They forget that Lebanon did not have an air force to send up against Israel's bombers, whereas when you send in soldiers the other side might shoot back.

Notice, incidentally, how quickly "freeing the soldiers" gave way as a war aim to "stopping the rockets" - which had not started before the prepared bombing and invasion (though many have convinced themselves with the help of the media that it was otherwise). But leaving aside the morality of this war, these commentators might ask, as we do, if Chief of Staff Halutz did not know on July 12 there was going to be a war, who did?
What, didn't they tell him?



Post a Comment

<< Home