Israeli army chief bows to decision forcing him out
JERUSALEM: Israel’s army chief held his fire on Thursday against a decision by government leaders to force his retirement before a Gaza pullout, telling top generals he would soldier on with preparations for the withdrawal.
Israeli commentators attributed the decision, of not extending Lt Gen Moshe Yaalon’s three-year term, to his past criticism of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government for not doing enough to ease hardships for Palestinians.
Israeli officials had voiced concern the military shake-up could cause uncertainty in the ranks that might undermine the plan to remove all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four of 120 in the West Bank, starting around July.
Yaalon has been deeply involved in preparing the military for the months-long operation amid fears of violent protests by settlers and their supporters.
“The missions we face oblige us to pull together so that we can carry them out, and the main mission that is pending is the disengagement,” an army statement quoted Yaalon, who had sought a 12-month extension, as telling his general staff.
“Throughout my military career, I have always reaffirmed my commitment to be there when it is requested of me and to move on when it is not,” Yaalon said. “The decision that was made was legal and I am therefore saluting and moving on,” he added.
The Wednesday announcement that Yaalon would not be granted an automatic one-year extension sent shockwaves through Israel’s military and political ranks. “My expectation of myself and of each and every one of you is that we should all look forward, prepare for our missions and move on,” Yaalon told his top generals. reuters