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Netanyahu pushes back against reports of army pressure to end the war, accusing officials of ‘defeatism’

Netanyahu’s statement was extraordinary for implicitly upbraiding the country’s military leadership. It suggested that the leaders were guilty of “defeatism”

(JTA) — After reports that Israeli military leaders are pushing for a ceasefire that leaves Hamas in power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the fighting until the terror group is eliminated.

“Anonymous sources briefed The New York Times that Israel will be prepared to end the war before all of its objectives are achieved,” Netanyahu said Tuesday. “This will not happen. The war will end once Israel achieves all of its objectives, including the destruction of Hamas and the release of all of our hostages.”

A Tuesday article in The New York Times reported  that Israeli military officials feel a ceasefire with Hamas, even before it is fully defeated, is the best means of returning some 120 hostages still held by the terrorist group from its deadly Oct. 7 invasion of Israel.  A ceasefire, the article said in the name of the senior military figures, would also allow the military to refocus its capabilities on the north, where deadly exchanges with Hezbollah on the border with Lebanon threaten to erupt into a full-scale war.

Another concern is the exhaustion of overextended troops in Gaza and diminishing munitions, the Times reported.

Netanyahu’s statement was extraordinary for implicitly upbraiding the country’s military leadership. It suggested that the leaders were guilty of “defeatism.”

“The Government directed the IDF to achieve these war objectives and the IDF has all the means to achieve them,” Netanyahu said. “We will not capitulate to the winds of defeatism, neither in The New York Times nor anywhere else. We are inspired by the spirit of victory.”

It’s not the first time Netanyahu and the military have clashed in recent weeks the over the war’s direction. Rear Admiral. Daniel Hagari, the army spokesman, said last month that those who believe Hamas can be totally defeated are “throwing sands in the eyes” of the public,” earning a response from Netanyahu that said Hamas’ destruction remains an aim of the war.

And the Times has been reporting on Israeli army unhappiness with Netanyahu since at least January, when it quoted anonymous officials as saying that the prime minister lacked clear strategy which would shape the fighting.

The army appeared to backtrack, or at least sought to reassure Netanyahu that it remained aligned with his strategies. Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the chief of staff, said the destruction of Hamas remains the army’s goal, after speaking to troops who had succeeded in diminishing the capability of the terrorist group in Rafah, a city on the Gaza-Egypt border.

“The current effort, and the reason we are working here week after week, is now focused on the destruction of the terrorist infrastructure and the destruction of the underground infrastructure, which takes time,” he said.

Even as the army succeeds in tamping down Hamas in one area, fighting has flared up again in another where Israeli forces had previously said they were crushing the terror group. On Monday, the army once again called on civilians to evacuate as it reported an intensive exchange of fire with Hamas in Khan Younis, a city preciously believed to have been largely cleared of the group’s fighters.

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