The Prime Minister always wants to have as many options as possible and has concluded that he needs one option to end the war. However, his reasons for stopping the fighting are different from those of his generals.

In all the coverage of Joe Biden’s speech on Friday and events since then, one detail has been largely forgotten. For the first time, Israel presented an official political proposal that foresees the end of the war in Gaza in the not too distant future.

But the pile of warnings is high. Benjamin Netanyahu was not wrong when he told a closed meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Biden’s description of Israel’s proposal to Hamas was “inaccurate” and “incomplete.” It is not very clear how negotiations for the “second phase” of the proposal – a lasting ceasefire – can succeed.

This is what is delaying any agreement on the “first phase”, a six-week truce during which some of the Israeli hostages in Gaza would be released.

As it stands, the proposal is just a negotiating position that needs to be fleshed out in future rounds of laborious negotiations. There are many details in this agreement, and each one can derail negotiations. Hamas has not yet officially responded to the basic proposal and, so far, it does not appear that its leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, is in a hurry to do so.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, center, meets with lawmakers from his Otzma Yehudit party on Monday. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

And even if an agreement is reached, only then will the broader Israeli cabinet be convened to discuss and vote on the matter. The proposal came from the smaller war cabinet, where far-right parties from the government coalition were excluded.

The chances are slim that the proposal that Biden presented with such enthusiasm will soon be reached as a complete long-term ceasefire agreement. That doesn’t mean it isn’t significant. In public and private, Netanyahu insists that Israel is not considering ending the war until Hamas’s military and government capabilities are destroyed. But that doesn’t change the fact that the war cabinet he presides over has proposed a plan that foresees exactly that. He could have denied that Israel had made the proposal. He has lied about bigger things in the past.

Netanyahu not only acknowledged that the proposal was his. In a rare act of defiance, he refused to show it to his extremist partners Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. Over the past two days, its other coalition partners – Shas in an official statement and some United Torah Judaism lawmakers – have announced their support for the proposal.

This is the second time during the war that ultra-Orthodox politicians have publicly taken a stance on security issues. Two months ago, they made known their opinion on retaliation after Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel; they advised against a major Israeli attack.

Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza late last month. Credit: IDF/AFP

Then and now, they intend to help Netanyahu by giving him political cover against the extreme right. Ministers from his Likud party did not say much about the matter. If Netanyahu wanted to kill the proposal, they would know and attack this approach at every opportunity.

So what’s going on here? Why does Netanyahu maintain a proposal that includes ending the war soon, while at the same time insisting that he has no such intention?

Netanyahu always wants to have as many options as possible and has concluded that he needs one option to end the war. Until a few weeks ago, his inclination was to maintain the status quo in Gaza because the longer the war goes on, the more difficult it will be for his political opponents to force early elections and drag him before a state commission of inquiry. But his calculations are changing.

The announcement last month that International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan was recommending an arrest warrant for Netanyahu (along with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders) brought to light the fact that Netanyahu may be feeling the war on your own skin.

Meanwhile, unrest in his coalition, Benny Gantz’s ultimatum to leave if Netanyahu does not announce a long-term war strategy, and, most importantly, the Supreme Court’s impending ruling on the conscription of yeshiva students into the army and the suspension of government funding for ultra-Orthodox organizations. institutions are leading him to consider the possibility of anticipating a coalition crisis with the extreme right.

Accepting the framework for a ceasefire will alienate the far right from the government and leave Netanyahu without a majority, but he could move forward with the support of opposition leader Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party, which supports Friday’s proposal . Or Netanyahu could propose the dissolution of the Knesset and bet on early elections.

War cabinet members Benny Gantz, center, and Gadi Eisenkot, right, at a meeting in February. Credit: Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP

These are all options, one of which he will try to choose only at the last moment. But he is now prepared to consider the option of ending the war – although for obvious political reasons he cannot say so.

The same applies to war cabinet members Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, who say publicly that the war must continue after a brief pause for a hostage deal. Herzl Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, thinks so too, as he suggested to the families of the hostages he met with two weeks ago. He said that “the IDF has achieved 80 percent of its objectives in Gaza” and the remaining 20 percent can wait.

Like Netanyahu, these leaders cannot say they want the war with Hamas to end. And just like him, they are looking for a way to end it.

Unlike Netanyahu, they have fewer personal and political reasons. They understand that any realistic campaign to eradicate Hamas’ control of Gaza will take years and can only be accomplished when Palestinian Authority security forces have the capacity to begin taking control. Building this capacity will take time and it will take another government in Israel, as Ben-Gvir and Smotrich will do everything in their power to prevent this from happening while they remain ministers.

Gantz, Eisenkot and Halevi are concerned about war fatigue in Israeli society and the need to rejuvenate IDF regular and reserve units. They are increasingly concerned that the situation on the northern border with Hezbollah is getting out of control. A ceasefire in Gaza is necessary, whether for a major military operation in Lebanon or for a diplomatic solution. Above all, they know that the chances of recovering the hostages alive are diminishing.

A ceasefire will not mean a prolonged period of peace in Gaza. The next round of war with Hamas is inevitable, but it may be more limited and does not have to occur immediately.

Netanyahu, members of the war cabinet and the defense establishment in general are reaching the conclusion that the war must end soon. For Netanyahu, this is so he can prepare his battle for political survival. For the generals, it is so that Israel can be better prepared for the wars to come.

Via Haaretz


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