IDF slams right-wing pundit for ‘lie’ that military chief wants Hamas to rule Gaza

In rare critique, military rejects assertion by Yaakov Bardugo that Halevi is pushing an alleged Washington framework to end the war

Israeli journalist Yaakov Bardugo (3rd-L) at the Knesset, Jerusalem, on May 20, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli journalist Yaakov Bardugo (3rd-L) at the Knesset, Jerusalem, on May 20, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The IDF Spokesman’s Office on Tuesday issued a rare critique of a television commentator for suggesting that the army chief of staff supports the idea of leaving Hamas in place to rule the Gaza Strip when the war there ends.

In a statement, the IDF said the claim by the right-wing Channel 14 pundit Yaakov Bardugo that IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi is in favor of the terror group remaining in power in Gaza “is a complete lie and has no basis.”

The IDF noted that Halevi has repeatedly stated that Hamas cannot continue to rule the Strip. Nevertheless, the statement added, policy is made not by the military but by the government, and the IDF merely carries out orders.

The “claims” circulated by Bardugo suggesting otherwise are “a complete lie and an attempt to harm the IDF and the chief of staff who leads it,” the statement said.

War erupted on October 7 when Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, during which terrorists also abducted 251 people as hostages to Gaza.

Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas, topple its regime in Gaza, and free the hostages. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that the war will not end until Hamas is destroyed and has made that goal a central plank of his war strategy, including in negotiations for a potential deal to release the hostages.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi is seen holding a situational assessment in central Gaza in an image published June 16, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF statement came after the Channel 14 website published an essay by Bardugo titled, “The new concept of the chief of staff: To leave a Hamas regime in Gaza.”

In the piece, Bardugo asserted that senior leaders in the IDF, including Halevi, have adopted what he asserted is Washington’s position that Israel must stop the war in Gaza while leaving Hamas as at least part of the regime governing the Palestinian enclave. Bardugo wrote that Halevi is becoming a diplomat to the US, has “crossed the boundaries of his role,” and is therefore “not suitable for the important role he holds.”

Bardugo’s attack on Halevi came a day after Netanyahu’s son Yair lashed out at the military, alleging “treason” in the lead-up to October 7. The younger Netanyahu shared a clip on Instagram of Bardugo explaining his position against Halevi on Channel 14. He has also recently used his online platform to campaign against the military chief.

Netanyahu was commenting on the High Court of Justice’s interim order instructing the state comptroller to suspend any aspects of his probe into the failings relating to October 7 that deal with the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet.

Yair Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in Tel Aviv, on November 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Attacks on the defense establishment are not limited to the premier’s son — on Sunday the elder Netanyahu reportedly told ministers, “We have a country with an army, not an army with a country.”

Channel 14 has also caused controversy with its reporting of the war. Last month the network provoked outrage when it aired a poll it suggested showed a correlation between being a left-wing voter and having been murdered by Hamas terrorists during their deadly rampage through southern Israeli border communities on October 7.

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