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In an interview with The New York Timessix former and current Israeli military officials said a ceasefire is necessary to bring back the 120 hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, contrary to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been advocating. The statements given to the American newspaper reveal the differences in thinking about the war between the Netanyahu government and the Israeli Armed Forces General Staff.

Four of the six officials spoke on condition of anonymity, but echoed the position of Eyal Hulata, a former national security adviser, who told the NOW fear an “eternal war” from Netanyahu.

According to Hulata, the military’s fear is due to the unwillingness of the Israeli far-right leader to commit to transferring control of Gaza to alternative Palestinian leaders.

The issue has already been a source of friction between the prime minister and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who hails from Netanyahu’s Likud party. The prime minister was furious with Gallant’s statements and said he was not ready “to replace Hamas with a ‘Fatahstan’,” an ironic pun on Fatah, the main faction that makes up the Palestinian Authority.

For Hulata, in addition to the return of the hostages, the ceasefire would have the power to deter a larger war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement that has been involved in a low-intensity fight with Israel since October.

“The military fully supports a hostage agreement and a ceasefire,” Eyal Hulata said. “They believe they can always go back and confront Hamas militarily in the future,” he said.

“[Os militares] “They understand that a pause in Gaza makes de-escalation in Lebanon more likely. And they have less ammunition, less spare parts, less energy than they had before, so they also think that a pause in Gaza gives us more time to prepare in case a larger war with Hezbollah breaks out,” the former national security adviser said.

Known collectively as the General Staff Forum, Israel’s military leadership consists of some 30 senior generals, including the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi; the commanders of the army, air force and navy; and the head of military intelligence.

Generals say Israel’s military is under-equipped for new combat after Israel’s longest war in decades.

The distance between the military leadership and Netanyahu’s wishes has become more evident in recent weeks.

Until recently, the military had publicly argued that it was possible to achieve the government’s two main war goals simultaneously: defeating Hamas and rescuing hostages seized by Hamas and its allies during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Now, the military high command has concluded that the two goals are incompatible, several months after the generals began to have doubts.

Recently, the top spokesman for the Israeli military, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, contradicted Netanyahu and his far-right cronies by saying that it is impossible to destroy Hamas.

“Those who think we can make Hamas disappear are mistaken,” Hagari said on June 19, amid advanced ceasefire negotiations.

“Hamas is an idea. Hamas is a political party. It is rooted in the hearts of the people,” he added.

To suggest otherwise, Hagari warned in a thinly veiled criticism of Netanyahu, was “pulling the wool over the eyes of the public.”

“What we can do is create something else, something that replaces it, something that lets the population know that someone else is distributing food, someone else is providing public services. Who that someone is, what that something is, that is up to the politicians to decide,” he said.


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