Israeli Dilemmas: Civilians, Hostages, Victory, or Relations with the USA

The Israeli government's refusal to commit to Palestinian control of Gaza after the war has led to the collapse of international support

by Sededin Dedovic
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Israeli Dilemmas: Civilians, Hostages, Victory, or Relations with the USA
© Pool / Getty Images

Two weeks into the Israel Defense Forces' ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, approximately 10,000 soldiers from four divisions have penetrated the enclave. Operations vary from entering Gaza City's center to scouring the now mostly deserted surrounding towns for Hamas tunnel entrances.

The situation is covered by The Economist. Western backing for the Israeli campaign appears wavering. On November 10, French President Emmanuel Macron advocated for a ceasefire, acknowledging Israel's right to respond to the October 7 Hamas attack but expressing concern over civilian casualties, particularly among children, women, and the elderly.

While Israel's primary ally, the United States, has not explicitly called for a ceasefire, the IDF aims to capitalize on this tacit support. However, the military offensive faces increasing uncertainty regarding its stated goals of dismantling Hamas's military infrastructure and rescuing 239 hostages.

Recent focus has centered on hospitals in central Gaza, especially al-Shifa, believed by Israeli intelligence to harbor key Hamas headquarters. The IDF announced on November 12 its intention to facilitate civilian evacuation from al-Shifa, denying plans for a final hospital attack but emphasizing the need to avoid conflict in places housing innocent people.

Israeli officials hope to secure a deal with Hamas for the release of more hostages, setting a minimum requirement of 100 for consideration. Indirect negotiations in Qatar and Egypt are ongoing, with the final decision resting with Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza.

Negotiations aside, it remains uncertain whether a hostage agreement would prevent the IDF from targeting Hamas facilities near or under hospitals. As tense talks persist, Israel encourages Gaza City residents to head south.

The Israeli government's reluctance to commit to Palestinian control of Gaza post-war has eroded international support. Some far-right coalition members advocate for Gaza's reoccupation and reconstruction of 2005-destroyed settlements.

Prime Minister Netanyahu denies such plans but insists on Israel maintaining overall security control. He dismisses the possibility of the Palestinian Authority's return, citing Hamas's alleged promotion of hatred and violence against Israelis.

While the Biden administration desires the Palestinian Authority to assume control after the conflict, Netanyahu, facing declining public support, appears more concerned with backing from Israeli nationalists. Recognizing his finite leadership, Israel's leaders are preparing for a potential transfer of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, aligning with the U.S. preference.

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