Israeli Report Criticizes Halutz

Commission assails HBS student and former Israeli military official

The top Israeli military official during the 2006 Lebanon war, currently a student at a Harvard Business School program for experienced executives, has come under withering criticism from an Israeli panel for his conduct during the war.

Dan Halutz, who resigned as chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces in February, was harshly reproached in the preliminary report of a commission led by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd.

“The chief of staff failed in his duties as commander in chief of the army and as a critical part of the political-military leadership, and exhibited flaws in professionalism, responsibility and judgment,” the Winograd report says.

The commission’s findings have also prompted calls for the resignations of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, both of whom have been widely blamed for mistakes made during the war.

The commission also took Halutz to task for how he dealt with Israel’s civilian political leaders, to whom he served as the top military adviser.

“[The chief of staff] did not alert the political echelon to the serious shortcomings in the preparedness and the fitness of the armed forces for an extensive ground operation,” the report continues. “[His] responsibility is aggravated by the fact that he knew well that both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense lacked adequate knowledge and experience in these matters.”

Neither Olmert nor Peretz have high-level leadership experience in the military, in contrast to predecessors like Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin, who had both served in Halutz’s position before entering elected politics.

According to a report in Monday’s Jerusalem Post, Halutz had Harvard University Police Department officers block Israeli reporters who were seeking to interview him. HUPD did not respond to requests for comment, though the Post quoted an unnamed police spokesman saying Halutz was “not interested in talking to the media.”

Halutz did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment yesterday, though he released a short statement praising the commission and calling the report a “milestone,” according to a report on Monday in Haaretz, a major Israeli daily newspaper.

“I’m convinced that the members of the commission did their job faithfully and out of a desire to reach the truth,” he said, according to the paper.

Halutz’s successor as chief of staff, Gabriel Ashkenazi, also attended the Business School’s Advanced Management Program. He graduated in 2004.

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at pbhayani@fas.harvard.edu.