Shas leader Aryeh Deri, an observer on the narrow war cabinet, said Monday that Israel did not have plans ready to topple Hamas when the terror group conducted its massive attack on Israel on October 7, explaining that time was needed since then to allow the military to prepare for its expected ground offensive.
“Everyone agrees on the goal, which is that Hamas will not continue to exist, not in a governmental or operational context,” Deri said in comments to a Shas faction meeting at the Knesset.
“But it must be noted that there wasn’t a plan [for this] previously. We are preparing it amidst the fighting,” added Deri, who served just three months in the IDF when he was in his late 20s. “It’s not like the army is ready and the political echelon only needs to decide.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed Monday evening that Israel would be carrying out a ground offensive in Gaza, adding that it would be “deadly.”
MK Deri has not served in the cabinet in an official capacity since January, when the High Court of Justice ordered his removal from ministerial posts in the then-nascent government over his past criminal convictions. He has, however, remained a senior coalition member and is seen as a trusted adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The narrow war cabinet is made up of Netanyahu, Gallant and former IDF chief of staff and former defense minister Benny Gantz, who formed an emergency government with Netanyahu after Hamas’s assault. Sitting as observers are Gantz’s fellow National Unity party member and former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Deri.
Deri said Israel’s emergency government is facing “unprecedented challenges,” but is in agreement regarding goals and strategies.
“You wouldn’t want to trade places with those making the decisions,” he said, adding that in all his years in various cabinets he had never seen leaders “being required to decide on such unprecedented challenges and problems.”
He also denied claims in Hebrew media outlets that top military brass and members of the war cabinet were in conflict over the timing and scope of a ground incursion.
“There aren’t tensions or disagreements between the army and political ranks,” he said.
His comments came as the military appeared to be pressing political leaders to make a decision to launch the offensive sooner rather than later.
In response to the reports of disagreements, the government released a statement Monday stating that Netanyahu, Gallant and Gantz have “complete and mutual trust and a clear unity of purpose” and are “working in close, full cooperation around the clock to lead the State of Israel to a total victory over Hamas.”
And later Monday, Netanyahu’s office released a video of him sitting next to Gallant and IDF chief Herzi Halevi vociferously insisting that the three were of one mind. “We are working together like a closed fist for one goal, eliminating Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
Gallant, after touring an area near the Gaza coastline with the Israeli Navy, told forces that they should “remain prepared for the offensive, because it will come.”
“We are preparing thoroughly. It will be a deadly attack. It will be a combined attack from land, sea, and air,” he said. “Do your job, get ready, we will deploy you,” Gallant added.
And IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said ground forces were “very well prepared” for an offensive in Gaza.
“We want to bring Hamas to a point of disintegration. Its leadership, its military wing. That is why we’re attacking with great force. We are killing senior commanders, killing operatives, destroying infrastructure, and acting with great determination,” Halevi told commanders of the 146th Division in northern Israel.
Referring to apparent delays, Halevi said, “There are tactical, operative, and strategic considerations, which gave us more time. and forces that have more time prepare better, and this is what the forces are doing now.”
Since the unprecedented October 7 assault by Hamas, which resulted in some 1,400 Israeli dead, mostly civilians, and at least 224 citizens kidnapped, Israel has been engaging in extensive air strikes in Gaza, and has called up some 360,000 reserve soldiers. It has been the largest call-up in the country’s history, with most signs pointing to an impending ground invasion of Gaza, in a stated effort to topple Hamas from power and free the hostages.
Deri said there is a great deal of unsubstantiated information circulating, likely alluding to various reports on why the ground assault is perceived to have been delayed, including US diplomatic pressure.
“There’s a lot of baseless reports causing confusion, in society and also among the soldiers,” he charged.