Secretary of State Blinken visited Israel, seemingly in part to push for an extension of the ceasefire. That was over once Hamas carried out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem which killed a pregnant woman and an elderly rabbi. Beyond that, Hamas sabotaged the negotiations for the release of more hostages and began firing rockets.
But Blinken’s message, supposedly leaked to the media, was that Israel could not expect to continue fighting as it had before, using armored brigades and heavy firepower, that it had to leave UN facilities alone even if they’re being used by Hamas, and that it has to wrap up the fighting soon.
There’s nothing too surprising here. I didn’t expect the Biden administration to stick with this for as long as it did, and I suspect that was largely due to the genuine shock and horror that some people felt (Israel hasn’t fully released the Oct 7 footage, but it did screen it and pass it along to government officials, and the Biden admin had its own intelligence briefings) and the perception that the attack could be used to get the Palestinian Authority to take over Gaza and bring back peace negotiations.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been opposed to turning over Gaza to the PLO and Abbas appears to be sabotaging any such proposals with demands that the United States has to recognize his terror state as a country and provide UN admission. What that really means is that, once again, Abbas isn’t interested and is making excessive demands to scuttle the deal. It’s a tactic he inherited from Arafat who would find ways to blow up every peace negotiation.
The bottom line though is that Israel is facing challenging territory going forward. It’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’ the Biden administration pulls its support and how hard it will pull it. It’s not at all clear that military resupply aid will even get through Congress once Biden decided to staple it to a huge Ukraine aid package that Republicans hate. And even if it does get through, the administration can tie it up.
The initial phases of the war depended on shattering Hamas strongholds. Some of that was accomplished. But Hamas predictably melted away into the civilian population (which is also where the terror group appears to have kept some of the hostages) and the rest of the war may be a lot less neat. And that depends on how long the government will even choose to pursue it. There have been mixed messages from some Israeli government figures, although not Netanyahu, redefining the metrics of the war to destroying Hamas’ “governing ability” (a virtually meaningless metric that could be arguably met now) or the release of the hostages (which amounts to a deal with the terrorists), but short of Netanyahu’s call to destroy Hamas.
That is what most Israelis want. They want to finish the job. The country, not just the hostages or their families, has gone through a lot. The massive mobilization and massive displacement of civilians from war zones has had a huge impact on a small country.
Israelis have done this for a larger goal. The question is will the soldiers be allowed to finish the job?