Smotrich says Goldfus a 'brave warrior,' more like him needed

In rare critique, IDF general says politicians must ‘be worthy of us’

Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus says military won’t ‘run from responsibility,’ calls leadership to ‘push away the extreme’; is called for ‘clarification conversation’ with chief of staff

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

The commander of the 98th Division, Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, speaks to the press from the Gaza border, March 13, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
The commander of the 98th Division, Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, speaks to the press from the Gaza border, March 13, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

In rare and harsh remarks directed at Israel’s political leaders, the commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ 98th Division said Wednesday that the military would “not run away from responsibility,” and told them they must push away extremism so as to “not return to October 6.”

“I ask at this opportunity to address our leaders, from both sides, and I hope that they will have the time to listen to the heart of a soldier,” said Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus during a press conference on the Gaza border, in off-script remarks that were not approved by the IDF.

Goldfus said he has been fighting since the morning of Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, “and I have not stopped fighting since. Since then, I have not stopped sending soldiers, and gone with them, into the fire. We are fighting. We are not getting tired. We are determined to win, determined to bring home the hostages, directly or indirectly.

“Don’t worry, we, the people of the military, the commanders and troops, have taken, are taking, and will take responsibility for every action. We will not run, just as we don’t run from the fire. We will not run from responsibility,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has notably avoided taking responsibility for the October 7 onslaught, unlike the defense minister and many top IDF officers.

“We bow our heads over our resounding failure on October 7, but at the same time we push forward, carry out operations at the highest level of quality, protect our values, and attain many achievements on the battlefield,” Goldfus said.

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released for publication by the military on March 12, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

“But you, you need need to be worthy of us. You need to be worthy of the soldiers who lost their lives. You need to be worthy of the reservists who don’t care what [political] side they are on, and fought and fight alongside each other,” he continued.

“Make sure that everyone takes part, you must,” he said, apparently referring to the exemption of ultra-Orthodox Israelis from service. “You must make sure we do not return to October 6, that all the effort and sacrifice won’t be in vain. This you must keep well in your minds, every day, every hour.”

“From my heart, I ask of you to be together, united, push away the extreme, and adopt the togetherness. Find what unites. We on the battlefield found it, and we will not give up on it,” he said.

“Make it worth [it],” Goldfus added in English.

Troops operate in Khan Younis’s Hamad Town residential complex in Gaza, in a photo cleared for publication on March 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Goldfus’s remarks to Israel’s political leaders were read from a separate handwritten notebook, after he had completed reading a prepared speech on the division’s operations in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis.

The initial speech was approved by the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit, but the additional remarks were not.

“The remarks by the officer at the end of his statement were not approved by his superiors,” the IDF said.

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi was to summon Goldfus for a “clarification conversation,” the IDF said.

The Spokesperson’s Unit did not publish the commander’s statement on any of the IDF’s online platforms as it usually does, aside from a link to a video of the remarks in a distribution list for media networks.

Army Radio reported that Netanyahu was updated by his military secretary, Maj. Gen. Avi Gil, on Goldfus’s remarks ahead of their 7 p.m. embargo.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on February 29, 2024. (Nimrod Klikman/POOL)

Responding to Goldfus’s statement, Interior Minister and Health Minister Moshe Arbel of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said: “I embrace and hold to my heart every word of his words. A brave and heroic commander and warrior.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, of the far-right Religions Zionism party, called Goldfus “a brave warrior, and a commander of the type that the IDF needs today more than ever.”

Smotrich said Goldfus “expresses the true feeling of the fighters on the ground, who demand from us to be worthy of their bravery, their sacrifice, and their togetherness.”

He added that it was “not the time for clarifications.”

Goldfus’s division had been fighting in the Hamad Town residential complex in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis over the past week and a half, during which his troops killed more than 100 Hamas gunmen.

The troops have been raiding the multi-story buildings in the Qatari-funded neighborhood, where the IDF said there was Hamas infrastructure.

Around 100 airstrikes were carried out during the operation in Hamad, according to the IDF.

The division’s Maglan and Egoz commando units, along with the Givati reconnaissance unit, captured several operatives in Hamad, including a commander in Hamas’s elite Nukhba force, the IDF said.

The IDF said captured operatives have provided the IDF intelligence on the locations of tunnels, booby traps, gunmen, and other infrastructure.

In one case, the IDF said a captured Hamas fighter provided information on a building where 15 gunmen were holed up. The site was then struck and the operatives were killed, the IDF said.

The war began on October 7, when thousands of Hamas terrorists attacked southern Israel under a barrage of rockets fired at population centers all over the country. They brutally killed 1,200 people, including cases of torture and rape, and they seized 253 hostages. Israel swiftly declared war on Hamas, vowing to topple the terror group’s regime in Gaza and free the hostages.

The IDF has since overrun most of the Palestinian enclave alongside intense airstrikes in a campaign that has killed over 31,000 people, according to Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. These numbers cannot be independently verified and are believed to include over 13,000 terror operatives who were killed in battle as well as Gazans who were killed by terror groups’ misfired rockets. The IDF also killed more than 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on and immediately after October 7.

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