PM's office: IDF 'of course committed' to destroying Hamas

IDF spokesman says Hamas can’t be destroyed, drawing retort from PM: ‘That’s war’s goal’

Hagari calls Hamas ‘an idea rooted in the hearts of the people,’ also says it will stay in Gaza unless alternative found; PM reiterates war aims, amid divisions with defense brass

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari delivers an update on Israel's response to Iran's attack early on April 14, 2024. (Israeli Defense Forces/AFP)
IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari delivers an update on Israel's response to Iran's attack early on April 14, 2024. (Israeli Defense Forces/AFP)

IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari on Wednesday cast Israel’s war aim of eradicating the Hamas terror group as unattainable, appearing to underscore tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top defense officials over his handling of the war in Gaza.

“This business of destroying Hamas, making Hamas disappear — it’s simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public,” Hagari told Channel 13 news in an interview.

“Hamas is an idea, Hamas is a party. It’s rooted in the hearts of the people — anyone who thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong,” he continued.

Hagari also warned that “if the government doesn’t find an alternative — [Hamas] will remain” in the Gaza Strip.

In response, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the security cabinet “has defined as one of the war goals the destruction of Hamas’s military and governance capabilities.”

“The Israel Defense Forces is of course committed to this,” the statement added.

Troops under the Negev Brigade operate in southern Gaza’s Rafah, in a handout photo published June 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit subsequently issued a statement saying the military was committed to the government’s stated war goals, including destroying Hamas’s governing and military abilities, adding that Hagari had talked in the interview about “eradicating Hamas as an ideology and an idea.”

“Any claim otherwise is taking the remarks out of context,” the IDF added.

Hagari’s comments Wednesday echoed remarks he made last month, when he was asked whether the military’s need to return to areas in Gaza previously cleared of Hamas was a result of the government not making a decision on who will rule the Strip instead of the terror group.

“There is no doubt that a governmental alternative to Hamas would create pressure on Hamas, but that is a question for the political echelon,” he said at the time.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has urged Netanyahu to advance plans for postwar governance of Gaza, warning in May that a failure to find a replacement for Hamas will undermine Israel’s military achievements as the terror group would be able to regroup and reassert control of the enclave. Additionally, Gallant called on Netanyahu to rule out the idea of Israeli military and civil rule in Gaza after the end of the war triggered by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, as some far-right members of Netanyahu’s coalition advocate.

Television reports have said IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar also recently feuded with Netanyahu over strategic planning, while National Unity leader Benny Gantz resigned last week from the emergency war government after the premier refused to present a postwar plan by the deadline he set.

This handout photo shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (C) and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi meeting at the ‘Bahad 1’ military base in southern Israel, March 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

There have been other recent signs of friction between the military and Netanyahu, including over “tactical pauses” in fighting along a road in southern Gaza that Netanyahu criticized, while the IDF said the move was in line with the premier’s instructions to increase the amount of aid entering the Strip.

“In order to achieve the goal of destroying Hamas’s capabilities I’ve had to make decisions that weren’t always accepted by the military leadership,” Netanyahu asserted during Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

He also took a jab at the IDF, saying “we have a state with an army, not an army with a state,” in a reversal of a quip about Prussia.

Netanyahu’s eldest son Yair in recent days has also increasingly lashed out at army leaders, blaming them for the October 7 massacre that, unlike the defense brass, the premier has repeatedly refused to acknowledge responsibility for.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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