Top security official resigned after pillorying management of Gaza war — reports

National Security Council official Dr. Yoram Hemo reportedly wrote that war aims aren’t close to being achieved, recommended sharp change of approach

File - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a meeting of the war cabinet in Tel Aviv, early morning on April 14, 2024. (Courtesy)
File - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a meeting of the war cabinet in Tel Aviv, early morning on April 14, 2024. (Courtesy)

The National Security Council’s former head of defense policies and strategic planning resigned last week after presenting the war cabinet with a 10-page document in which he claimed Israel’s management of the war in Gaza was detrimental to its objectives, according to Hebrew media reports Monday.

Dr. Yoram Hemo resigned from the position last week after presenting the document, which was reportedly not well received by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

In the document, reported by Channel 12 news and Haaretz, Hemo warned that if the management of the war was not changed, Hamas would not be fully defeated; the effort to return the Hamas hostages could drag on for years; and Israel would have no choice but to impose military rule over Gaza.

“We can continue with the same approach and the operation in Rafah, but in the end, we will go back to the same problems, which may even be worse,” he warned.

Defeating Hamas is “a long way from being completed with the current approach and I doubt it will be at all,” Hemo wrote, adding that “the alternative achievements in Gaza are high but have outlived their positive influence.”

He added that stopping the war was a valuable bargaining chip in negotiations for the release of the remaining hostages, but that “after an operation in Rafah, it could lose most of its value.”

Brigadier-General (res.) Dr. Yoram Hemo in 2019. (IDF)

The IDF launched its operation in Rafah earlier this month after months of talks for a hostage deal with the Palestinian terror group failed to yield results. However, the offensive was more limited than originally planned, and a report Tuesday indicated it may be limited further.

Amid the operation in Rafah, Hemo said, Israel risks “turning the hostages into a years-long issue, with everything this entails for national resilience, Israel’s freedom to act, and failing to reach the war’s goals.”

Meanwhile, despite Israel maintaining that it does not want to govern Gaza after the war, the government has pushed off making decisions on who will take control of the enclave after the war, a matter that has split the war cabinet with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a decision.

“Failing to appoint an alternative government for the long term makes it difficult to hold off Hamas’s attempt to remain in power,” Hemo wrote in the document.

Under these circumstances, he warned, Israel could end up forcing itself to impose military rule on the Palestinian enclave, and “the challenge of military rule in the long term could bring Hamas back to power.”

Haaretz reported that Hanegbi was enraged by the document and instructed the cabinet to ignore it, but the National Security Council told the daily that this was untrue and that the national security adviser had encouraged Hemo to present it.

Israeli troops operate in eastern Rafah in the Gaza Strip, in a handout photo published May 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

In a statement to Channel 12, the National Security Council claimed that Hemo’s resignation had been discussed months ago because he wanted to leave the position for personal reasons, and his resignation was not linked to the document.

The war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7, 2023, with the terrorist organization’s attack on Israel in which some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered and 252 were taken hostage.

Israel then launched a ground offensive in Gaza with the proclaimed objectives of dismantling Hamas and getting the hostages back.

It is believed that 124 of the hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Troops also rescued three hostages alive and retrieved the bodies of 16 hostages including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 37 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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