Ministers blast security council head for saying idea of Hamas can’t be eradicated

Leaked WhatsApp messages show far-right cabinet members rebuking Tzachi Hanegbi for comments at Herzliya Conference

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi (L) speaks during the Herzliya Conference, June 24, 2024. (Ronen Topelberg)
National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi (L) speaks during the Herzliya Conference, June 24, 2024. (Ronen Topelberg)

Messages from a ministerial instant messaging group that were leaked to Hebrew media on Tuesday showed ministers outraged following National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi’s comments that the “idea” of the terror group Hamas cannot be eliminated.

Speaking at Reichman University’s Herzliya Conference earlier in the day, Hangebi said, “We can’t get rid of Hamas as an idea, there we need an alternative idea.”

Screenshots showed Hanegbi’s comment being criticized by various ministers in the politicians’ WhatsApp group.

“It is expected that the head of the National Security Council explain his comments,” Interior Minister Moshe Arbel wrote. “Hamas must disappear as an idea, just like ISIS and just like Nazism and slavery and other bad ideas. The National Security Council head doesn’t have the mandate to make such a remark.”

“It seems that Kadima and the disengagement are an idea. You can’t make it disappear even when you come back to Likud,” far-right Negev and Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf wrote. He was referring to the defunct centrist party Kadima, of which Hanegbi used to be a member. The party was founded by the late prime minister Ariel Sharon following backlash from his Likud party over his move to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Far-right Settlements Minister Orit Strock added that Hanegbi must make a public clarification regarding his comment.

“An idea can definitely be beaten – with the help of a better idea,” wrote far-right Heritage Minister Amichay Eliyahu, who in November said Israel should consider using a nuclear bomb in Gaza.

Hanegbi’s comments echoed similar ones made last week by IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, who earned a rebuke from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he warned that “if the government doesn’t find an alternative — [Hamas] will remain” in the Gaza Strip.

Screen capture from video of IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari at a conference hosted by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in Tel Aviv, May 8, 2024. (Ynet. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“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.”

The government’s alternative, Hanegbi said on Tuesday, is a government based on locals who are willing to live alongside Israel. They must be backed up by moderate Arab states, he said.

“The minute Hamas’s ability to operate its military and civil systems like it could on October 7 is taken away, there will be more ability for countries that want to see a governing alternative to Hamas in Gaza, with local leadership in Gaza, to join this process.” he explained. “It’s starting to take form now.”

The question of how a post-war Gaza will look has been central to public discourse since the war broke out on October 7, when Hamas terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 251.

Washington has repeatedly criticized Jerusalem over the issue, arguing that failure to plan for “the day after” would lead to Israel either permanently occupying Gaza or a state of chaos in the Strip that would allow for Hamas to regroup.

Senior US officials pressed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant this week in Washington on the issue, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who “emphasized the importance of that work to Israel’s security” during the two men’s meeting.

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