Ben-Gvir attacks IDF Spokesperson's Unit in letter to Chief of Staff

Ben-Gvir demanded in a letter to Kohavi that the sources in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit be expelled and claimed that the unit had also given "briefs" against him.

 Head of the Otzma Yehudit Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to supporters as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters in Jerusalem, November 1, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to supporters as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters in Jerusalem, November 1, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir on Tuesday sent a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, demanding that he expel officers from the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit for allegedly briefing reporters against a soldier in the unit who served as Ben-Gvir’s spokesman during his election campaign and in the past as spokesman of the far-right organization Lehava, Ben-Gvir’s office said.

Itamar Sassover, 22, served as a spokesman in the IDF Personnel Directorate, Haaretz reported Tuesday. “Security sources” were surprised by Sassover’s position because “the Personnel Directorate is considered strategic for the extreme Right” due to its authority over the Education Corps and the gender affairs adviser to the chief of staff. The extreme Right opposes the integration of women into combat units and wants to influence the educational content taught to soldiers, hence the Personnel Directorate is strategic, Haaretz reported.

Sassover received a 45-day furlough to participate in the election, as he was placed in the No. 45 spot on Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit list. However, he served de facto as Ben-Gvir’s spokesman throughout the campaign.

The spokesperson’s Unit did not know about Sassover’s ties to Lehava and to Kahanism and found it “delusional” that Sassover was placed in the Personnel Directorate, Haaretz quoted a source in the unit as saying. Other sources wondered how Sassover passed a background check, which is necessary when dealing with sensitive material, the report said.

Lehava, literally an acronym of “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land,” opposes marriages between Jewish women and non-Jewish (mostly Arab) men. It also opposes the LGBT pride parade. Members of Lehava have been convicted for incitement to violence, racism and terrorism and for violence and terrorism on racist grounds.

 MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90) MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

Ben-Gvir wrote on Twitter: “The mouthpiece of the extreme Left, Haaretz, launched a campaign against Itamar Sassover, my outstanding spokesman during the campaign, who returned to service in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, and for some reason people there think it is important to give briefs against him – and prove to us that there are elements in the unit who want to turn it into a branch of Meretz. With God’s help, we will fix this in the upcoming government.”

Ben-Gvir said the unit had also given briefs against him during the campaign itself.

What was in the letter?

“Those ‘sources’ in the unit, like a wounded animal, chose after the election to cross a redline by personally briefing against a soldier who serves in the unit – only because he ‘sinned’ by serving on my election campaign and serving in the past as a spokesperson for Lehava, an organization that does sacred work in saving the daughters of Israel,” he wrote.

“The IDF is the army of the people, and as such it must respect all of its soldiers and certainly not give briefs against them,” he added. He concluded by demanding that Kohavi immediately expel the sources who spoke to Haaretz.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit responded to Haaretz: “A soldier above the age of 21 who wishes to be a member of Knesset is allowed to file a request to postpone his service and actualize his civil right to be elected to the Knesset, in accordance with the Knesset Election Bill. Accordingly, the soldier was awarded a postponement to enable him to run for the Knesset. It should be made clear that the postponement was given based on his being a candidate on the list and not to serve in a [specific] position.”