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IDF admits it can’t win; Netanyahu isn’t listening

It was the moment when Israel’s military acknowledged the failure of its eight-and-half month war in Gaza – certainly the failure of the mission set out by the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, when he said after the October 7 Hamas attack that he would destroy the militant group.

On June 19 the spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, told Channel 13 News that the aim of eradicating Gaza’s leadership was unattainable.

At one level, the IDF spokesperson was merely restating what analysts had cautioned just after Hamas’s killing of 1,143 people, including 767 civilians, and its abduction of around 250 others. An all-out military assault, from the air and on the ground, would allow Hamas to present itself as the protector of Gaza’s civilians, even as Israel killed many thousands of them.

But, at another level, this admission was the Israeli military’s challenge to Netanyahu.

Three days earlier during a cabinet meeting Netanyahu had snapped that “to achieve the goal of destroying Hamas’s capabilities I’ve had to make decisions that weren’t always accepted by the military leadership.”

Now the IDF was effectively saying to the prime minister that his plan A of destroying Hamas was not viable. So what is plan B?

In Hagari’s words: “If the government doesn’t find an alternative” Hamas “will remain in Gaza.”

Netanyahu’s perpetual war

The prime minister’s office refused to give way to the military, responding to Hagari’s interview by doubling down on having “defined as one of the war goals the destruction of Hamas’s military and governance capabilities.”

In a tactical retreat, the IDF issued another statement – that it was committed to stated war goals, including destroying Hamas’s governing