Every evening since October 7, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israeli army, appears on television dressed in his military uniform and has become the face of his country’s offensive in Gaza.
The daily bulletin of Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israeli army, is for many of his fellow citizens a source of certainty in a country shaken since the attack launched by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which killed more than 1,200 dead, according to Israeli estimates. authorities. His nearly 20-minute statement followed by a series of questions is scrutinized for any indication of inconsistency in his reporting on the conflict with Hamas, a war in which information plays a key role.
His current work in the media spotlight contrasts with his previous experience as commander of the Shayetet 13 Special Forces, a naval unit known for its sabotage and counterterrorism activities. As a spokesperson, this 47-year-old soldier faces a delicate mission, since he must on the one hand reassure citizens in Israel and at the same time convince international public opinion concerned by the growing number of deaths due to to the Israeli offensive. in Gaza. .
“These are difficult days for everyone,” Hagari said during his appearance on October 9. “We have to remember one thing: we are going to win.” Experts say Hagari has become the face of Israel in a conflict that divides global public opinion.
Hagari “fills a void”
When he took office in March, the soldier set himself the objective of “strengthening confidence” in the Israeli army and reaffirming its “international legitimacy”. This task became complicated after the attack by Hamas, which took nearly 240 people hostage during its assault. This incursion by Hamas militiamen, who penetrated a militarized border, damaged the reputation of the Israeli army.
Many critics have accused political leaders of being too complacent at a time when Israel has been paralyzed by a constitutional crisis linked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform. Hagari “fills a void,” according to Jérôme Bourdon, an academic at Tel Aviv University.
According to a survey by Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, 74% of Israelis believe that the army spokesperson is the most reliable source of information on the war, compared to 4% for the Prime Minister in this assessment. But Bourdon noted that there is a “gap” between how Hagari’s messages are perceived in Israel and the rest of the world.
“There are arguments that seem valid here but are not credible or seem ridiculous abroad,” he said. The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment on Hagari for this article.
Show “in front of the world”
This month, Hagari once again donned combat fatigues and delivered a first-person report from the basement of a hospital in the Palestinian territory. His claims sparked controversy, as at one point he said a list found on the wall was a plan by Hamas fighters to keep hostages.
The images show a table with dates, without any names. Hagari said he wanted to show “in the eyes of the world” that Hamas is using “Gaza hospitals to hide terrorist infrastructure,” an accusation reiterated by the Israeli army. For many international media, the evidence presented so far does not support these accusations by Israel, at a time when Hamas claims that the Israeli offensive in Gaza has left nearly 12,300 dead, most of them civilians. .
The military spokesperson sometimes discusses his personal life during his appearances. Two weeks ago, at an English-language press conference, he said he had a one-year-old son, referring to the situation of a ten-month-old baby who authorities say was kidnapped in Gaza. “This is a crime against humanity,” he said with emotion.
But a former employee of his office warned that the role of a spokesperson is limited. “The army spokesperson is a reflection of the army,” he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “It does not determine reality.”