Some senior officers saw Halutz's measure as suppressing diverse opinions and preventing the country's political leaders from being exposed to critical information, while others viewed it as a necessary part of creating order out of the chaos reigning in the General Staff before Halutz became chief of staff.
In a meeting at his office on July 14, two days into the war, Halutz told his generals: "In my opinion, we are confusing the decision-makers. I'm no longer willing to hear any position other than the ones made [in the General Staff]. You want an intellectual discussion? You can do that anywhere you want with the prime minister. In formal deliberations the IDF position will be voiced, just as the Shin Bet and the Mossad each has a single position."
Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin reminded Halutz that he was obligated to present the country's leaders with his own, independent position if he had one, in his capacity as MI chief and in light of the conclusions of the Agranat Commission investigation into the Yom Kippur War.
Halutz agreed, but noted that even the head of MI cannot present the cabinet with operational recommendations that differ from those agreed on by the IDF General Staff.
Halutz added, "... neither can the deputy chief of staff or the head of operations. You present the [IDF] position, period. Clear-cut. If that is difficult for people, I'll go there alone."
Even as a deputy chief of staff Halutz had reservations about the practice of several senior officers attending cabinet meetings and expressing different, sometimes contradictory, positions, in contrast to the Shin Bet under Yuval Diskin, which always presented his position. Diskin criticized Halutz and his predecessor, Moshe Ya'alon, on this very issue several times.
'Doesn't encourage openness or free thought'
Officers who served with Halutz as a major-general and as chief of staff told Haaretz that Halutz's remarks on July 14 reflected his approach.
The officers commented that "he doesn't encourage openness or free thought. He acted that way from his first day as chief of staff. From the moment he made up his mind, the fact that there was a different opinion among the top brass didn't interest him any longer. It's a problem, especially when it's known that the work in the headquarters in the vicinity of the prime minister and the defense minister is deficient. That's why it's important that the decision-makers be aware of the various positions, even if in the end there is one decision the IDF is committed to - that of the chief of staff."
On Sunday the cabinet will vote on the appointment of Maj. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi as Israel's 19th chief of staff. The appointment was approved this week by the committee on senior civil service appointments, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Ya'akov Turkel.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held on February 14, in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem.
Ashkenazi met this week with deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky and asked him to stay on as his deputy. Sources in the General Staff say they doubt that Kaplinsky will do so.
They say he will probably make a final decision only after the release of the Winograd Committee's interim report, expected in about six weeks.