Israel's former military chief launched a devastating attack on the country's leaders on Thursday, calling for the prime minister and the top general to quit over failings in the Lebanon war.
The challenge from General Moshe Ya'alon, who was Israel's chief of staff until June last year, comes as several senior figures, including the prime minister, the president and the justice minister, face accusations in a series of embarrassing scandals over corruption and impropriety.
In an interview in the Ha'aretz newspaper, Ya'alon rounded on the government for launching a costly ground invasion of Lebanon in the final days of the conflict.
"It had no substantive security- political goal, only a spin goal," he said. "It was meant to supply the missing victory picture. You don't do that."
Thirty-three soldiers were killed in the ground operation alone.
Public pressure has mounted over shortcomings in the military action, not least the failure to score a comprehensive victory over Hezbollah or to retrieve the two soldiers whose capture on July 12 triggered the 34-day conflict.
The general said the current chief of staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, should have quit immediately after the war, and was only slightly less tough on Defense Minister Amir Peretz, saying he should be replaced because he lacked military experience. Yet he reserved his strongest criticism for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"Going to war was scandalous, and he is directly responsible for that. The war's management was a failure and he is responsible for that," Ya'alon said. "He was warned and did not heed the warnings. Therefore he must resign."
Only one leading figure has fallen on his sword since the end of the war with Hezbollah -- General Udi Adam, the head of the military's Northern Command. After suffering weeks of criticism for his apparent hesitancy and caution during the conflict, his resignation on Wednesday won him praise for his integrity.
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a Cabinet minister, applauded his decision and called on the chief of staff to follow suit: "I expect Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz will do the exact same thing that Adam did and announce his resignation."
The next challenge will come with findings of the inquiry into the war. Olmert has shunned calls to hold a high-profile state commission of inquiry.
Instead there will be an investigation led by a retired judge into the handling of the conflict.
Adam could trigger a round of infighting.
"This will be a generals' war. Many of his arrows will be surely aimed at Halutz," Ze'ev Schiff, Israel's most respected military analyst, wrote on Thursday.
Cameron Brown, an analyst at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, said he expected Halutz and Olmert to fight on. But if a scandal was proven, or if the inquiry revealed high-level mistakes during the war, they might be forced out.
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