update deskIsrael at War

After IDF criticism, Netanyahu reiterates commitment to Hamas’s destruction

The rebuke came after the army's chief spokesperson said in an interview that to truly end Hamas rule in Gaza, the government will have to replace it with "something else."

Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in Gaza City. Credit: IDF.
Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in Gaza City. Credit: IDF.

Israel’s government and military remain fully committed to eliminating Hamas terrorist rule in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office clarified on Wednesday evening.

The statement came after Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told Channel 13 News that the government’s war goal of ending Hamas rule in Gaza can only truly be accomplished by putting in place a viable alternative.

“The Security Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has defined the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities as one of the war’s goals,” stated the Prime Minister’s Office. “The IDF, of course, is committed to this,” the statement continued.

Hagari told Channel 13 that “Hamas is an idea” and that as such “anyone who thinks it can be eliminated is wrong.”

What can be done, he said, is to “foster something else. Something that will make the population aware that someone else is distributing food and managing public services. Who will that be? What will it be? That’s for the politicians to decide. But to truly weaken Hamas, this is the way.”

The military spokesman stressed that the Iran-backed terrorist organization is “rooted in the hearts of the people” of Gaza.

The IDF is close to defeating Hamas’s final battalions in Rafah in southern Gaza, said Hagari. However, asked about efforts to return the remaining 120 hostages held in the Strip, he said it would be “impossible” to return all captives through military operations, adding that they should be freed “another way.”

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, a member of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, tweeted in response to Hagari’s interview, “The words of the IDF Spokesperson this evening are only a sign of the lax commanding spirit of the chief of staff and the defense minister.”

“Instead of thinking that he is still [Benny] Gantz’s and [Gadi] Eizenkot’s bureau chief and talking from their throats, the IDF spokesperson should concentrate on strengthening our fighters,” he wrote, in reference to Hagari’s roles under the two former IDF chiefs of staff, who now serve in the opposition National Unity Party.

Following Netanyahu’s statement, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit issued its own clarification, emphasizing that the army is “committed to achieving the goals of the war as defined by the Cabinet” and that it has been working on this “throughout the war, day and night, and will continue to do so.”

IDF soldiers “fight with determination and persistence to destroy the military capabilities and the governmental and organizational infrastructure of Hamas in Gaza, a clear military goal,” it added.

Hagari’s comments, the military claimed, “referred to the destruction of Hamas as an ideology and an idea, and this was said by him very clearly and explicitly. … any other claim is taking things out of context.”

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas official told Qatar’s Al Jazeera on Thursday that Hagari’s words were “an admission that [Israel] has already failed.

The spokesman’s “frank confession” will convince the international community that “the Hamas movement will remain in the political scene, and will be a permanent part of the social fabric and the fabric of resistance,” said Ghazi Hamad, a senior leader of the terror group.

Hagari’s apparent criticism comes amid a growing dispute between the political and military echelons regarding the “day after” Hamas in Gaza.

The government led by Netanyahu is set to discuss a proposal under which the military would administer Gaza for six months to a year following the war, the Kan News broadcaster reported last month.

The plan under consideration calls for civilian rule through the IDF Civil Administration and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, with local Arab companies providing services.

According to Kan, Jerusalem is considering a gradual transfer of control to local bodies not considered hostile to the Jewish state.

Netanyahu said during an interview that aired on May 9 that he is seeking to establish a rule “by Gazans who are not committed to our destruction, possibly with the aid of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries that I think want to see stability and peace.”

The defense establishment has stressed the need for the government to announce a clear alternative to Hamas, warning that a lack of decision-making could lead to the Iran-backed terror group returning to power.

Earlier this week, the IDF drew rebuke from elected officials after it announced daily 11-hour “tactical pauses” in military operations along a key aid route in the southern Strip.

During a subsequent Cabinet meeting, the premier was said to have told ministers, “We have a country with an army, not an army with a country,” Channel 13 News reported on Sunday. “In order to achieve the elimination of Hamas, I have made decisions that aren’t always accepted by the military echelon,” he said.

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