Sherwin Pomerantz

Israel’s 52nd Day of War

As of this morning, the ceasefire has remained in effect for three days, and Hamas has freed 58 hostages: 40 Israelis, 17 Thai nationals, and one Filipino. One of the hostages who returned yesterday, an 84-year-old woman, is in critical condition and was immediately brought to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

Hamas has violated several terms of the deal it made with Israel—releasing children without their parents, refusing to allow the Red Cross to visit remaining hostages (a violation the Red Cross has not protested), and firing a rocket 15 minutes after the ceasefire went into effect. An estimated 178 hostages remain in Gaza, 10 of whom are thought to be American citizens, although there is no way to confirm how many are alive. Today is the last day of the ceasefire under its current terms, when the final group of 11 hostages is to be freed.

The release of dozens of hostages by Hamas in recent days under a fragile cease-fire deal has brought a measure of relief to all of us here who have spent the past seven weeks agonizing over the fate of the 240 people abducted from Israel.  It has brought joyful reunions for families torn apart by the October 7th massacre, but the homecomings have also been mixed with anguish, as 178 of our fellow citizens remain held in captivity by Hamas. The releases have left many families separated. And with each wave of hostages released, calls to bring the rest home grow louder.

But the government faces a dilemma over how long we allow the pause in fighting to continue. The longer it goes on, the more international pressure could build on Israel for a permanent truce to prevent further civilian casualties in Gaza. Each day of the pause also gives Hamas time to strengthen its military position, potentially undermining our primary goal of eliminating the group.

Nevertheless, it seems that Qatari and Egyptian leaders are now leading talks to extend the four-day pause in fighting beyond today in an effort to secure the release of more hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and bring further relief to the Palestinians in Gaza. The central issue to resolve, according to Egyptian officials, is providing a list of hostages Hamas would agree to release in subsequent days.

In a statement on Sunday, Hamas said that it was seeking to extend the truce beyond the four-day period if Israel makes a “serious effort” to increase the number of Palestinian terrorists released from prison.  Any extension of the agreement would see 10 hostages released per day for up to another six days (10 days in total) before Israel’s military operation in Gaza resumes.

Israel Army Radio reported on Monday morning that Israel believes that Hamas is holding at least 20 more mothers, children and elderly women.  According to the report, Palestinian Islamic Jihad handed over to Hamas most of the mothers, children and elderly women it was holding captive.  However, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the Financial Times that there are more than 40 women and children in Gaza not held by Hamas and that the terror group needs time to locate them.

As anyone can see, there are many sub plots in this situation and a roadblock in any one of them can mean the end of the discussion.

Now that the war is close to the two-month mark next week, we here in Israel have settled into a somewhat surreal existence.  On the one hand we carry on with our daily lives as best we can, working, meeting with people, going to cafes, etc.  On the other hand, there is an entire industry of volunteer activity geared to supporting the war effort which seems to have taken on a life of its own, almost 200,000 people evacuated from their homes and living in hotels or other temporary quarters, and a bit of compassion fatigue in evidence as we speak to each other in daily conversation.   But life goes on, morale remains high and people are appreciative of the break in hostilities that has stopped the daily publication of funerals for those killed in action.

One thing hopefully each of us has learned during these past 52 days, so clearly enunciated by former US President Eisenhower when he said:  “This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”  Indeed, and may we strive for that even in the face of evil.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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