Israel’s Achilles Heel

Gaza 3

Although Israel is beating Gaza to the ground, its politicians and military don’t know what to do with the strip except destroy its infrastructure and kill its civilians. There is a deep schism among the establishment about what to do next in its onslaught.

A shocking survey shows more than two-thirds of Israelis, or 68 percent of a poll recently taken, oppose the allowing of aid supplies to enter Gaza. That may explain why the Israeli authorities are going “very slow”, and in some cases total ban to north Gaza, in allowing the distribution of aid trucks into the Palestinian enclave.

The poll shows the Israelis are careless about the starvation mode Gazans are experiencing which may give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the leeway to hold on to his abrasive military approach towards Gaza. It means that ceasefire, which the world is calling for, will not be on the tables despite the fact Hamas is still holding about 136 hostages, and their life will continue to be in danger.

‘No priority to hostages’

Indeed, many Israelis have long been saying that the government is not giving priority towards releasing the hostages, for otherwise they would have reached a peace deal with the Palestinian resistance movement but what they are interesting is continuing the war on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to eradicate their presence in Gaza.

This has always been the view of Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. They, basically, say that Israel would never be able to live it down as a strong country in the Middle East, if they stopped short of their objectives even though they destroyed most of Gaza, killed many of its people and displaced about two million of its 2.2 million population.

Netanyahu is being backed by the extremist parties of the government like National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who want the carnage on Gaza to continue regardless of the hostages and possible transfer of Palestinians into the Sinai Peninsula. And since the government is already made up of extremists, the other ministers are following a similar line including the reoccupation of Gaza and filling it with settlements.

Internal fighting

But this is creating much anguish in the Israeli street. First, there are the families of the hostages who say the government is not doing enough; second, there are the protesters who want Netanyahu to resign and call for general elections; and third, there is the views of the war cabinet members who are at best divergent about the hostages and the conduct of the war on Gaza.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz, a strong contender to Netanyahu which opinion polls put as leading the Israeli prime minister, continues to show he is more caring about rescuing the hostages. Meanwhile, Gabby Eisenkot, also in the war cabinet, has long said the government is losing the trust of the public, there should be a peace deal on the return of the hostages because Hamas can’t be defeated and there should be parliamentary elections in Israel.

All this is of course rejected by Netanyahu who says he has an electoral mandate well beyond 2025 and intends to carry on and win the war. But in this, he has another problem with the Israeli Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi over the conduct of the war and more.

Latest flare up

The last flare up is on the final stage of the ground war on Rafah. Today, Netanyahu still wants an army plan of how to continue to conduct the ground war in that city that is on the Egyptian border. Halevi has expressed worry about the 1.4 million Palestinian refugees who came to assemble in this town. He was reported to have told Netanyahu before a military ground operation can commence, the prime minister needs to plan and coordinate, possibly with the Egyptians, over the future of these refugees and where they will be moved.

The Egyptian government has already repeated with the cabinet in Amman, it will not accept any transfer of Gaza Palestinians regardless of how temporary it is as this amounts to expulsion from Gaza. And so today, we continue to wait. For Halevi, to be thinking about a Rafah ground war is too early for after all, the Israeli army is still bogged down in Khan Younis which is about 10 kilometers north from Rafah and 18 minutes away.

The army has been trying to enter Khan Younis, a major Palestinian city since last December, and they haven’t been able to. Although Israel soldiers have infiltrated the middle to south areas of Gaza, they have been stuck on the borders of the city where they have met stiff resistance through the admission of Halevi who says Jewish soldiers have a long way to go to dominate the city.

Thus, his quibbles with Netanyahu maybe realistic and strategic for the Israeli army is already over-stretching itself and doesn’t want to open another front down south. This is because the Izz Aldin Al Qassam fighters of Hamas and Saraya Al Quds, the armed-wing of Islamic Jihad, are proving to be a formidable force. They are resurfacing in the areas in the north – including Jabalia, Al Zaitoun, Sheikh Radwan – and are reforming their forces and fighting again the Israeli army.

This is proving a bitter blow to Halevi, who in turn is forcing his army to reengage and fight. After five months and contrary to what Netanyahu and army officers are saying about dismantling 70 percent of the Palestinian infrastructure, a report by the New York Times suggests there are still 5000 Hamas operatives in north Gaza. They are still resurfacing from underground tunnels and fighting the Israelis as “ghost soldier”.

The Israeli army has lost thousands of men in this war no matter how much they have tried to control the real figures. Thousands are also injured bound to wheel chairs and thousands are in need of psychiatric help. In terms of military equipment, the Israeli army lost over 1100 machines including troop carriers and bulldozers and over 900 tanks, either completely destroyed and or partially damaged.

With these great losses – never before in the 75-year history of Israel – many observers say Netanyahu’s insistence on carrying on with the war relates to his personal gain. The longer the war continues the more likely his corruption trial will be postponed and the less likely he will go to jail.

This may also explain the recriminations and strife in his war cabinet. The only thing Netanyahu succeeded in this bloody war is creating genocide where people are dying by the tens of thousands. If not through his war planes, then it is through using starvation as a policy and war strategy by banning aid trucks from entering Gaza and sending Palestinians to their graves.

Marwan Asmar is a writer from Amman specializing on Middle East Affairs

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