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Yossi Missri

It’s always easy to blame someone

While the discussions about the hostage deal in Cairo continue, the head of the CIA skips between the capitals of the Middle East to try to close a deal – it is impossible not to discuss the deterioration in the state of Israel’s intervention.

The week started with a surprising announcement in the media: “The Hamas leadership has approved the outline of the hostage deal.” In practice, this is a sophisticated proposal by Hamas, which is not close to the principles that Israel agreed to. The announcement was known to throw pressure on the Israeli leadership in international and internal public opinion in Israel. After Hamas announced the “agreement,” Israel began a targeted military operation on the east side of Rafah to put pressure on the leadership of Hamas and realize its political goals – operations headed by the occupation and further cleansing of Rafah from the presence of Hamas.

There is no doubt that the developments of the past week symbolize the deterioration of the State of Israel in everything related to the management of the campaign. Yesterday (08.05.24), the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, confirmed the reports about the delay in the shipment of weapons to Israel. Austin claimed that the US is opposed to a broad military action in Rafah and that the delay in the shipment is testing American policy against Israeli policy. Matthew Miller, the spokesman for the State Department, added that the US is reviewing its policy following Israel’s policy when the American administration expressed its opposition to a military operation in Rafah at all levels.

True, we as Israelis understand our obligation to weaken and eradicate the military of Hamas. One can also understand the anger at the American administration, whose “bear hug” prevents Israel from carrying out actions necessary for the security of the State of Israel. What cannot be done is to blame the American administration for the dismal desired state of the State of Israel.

Let’s go back a bit, before the 07.10 massacre. The right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu launched its reform of the judicial system to the Israeli public. A reform that, after all, will tear the people apart, cause the army to lose concentration and our nature to understand that this is the time to attack. Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt that the military built by Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and succeeded by Hertzi Halevi was not ready for an all-out war. However, the Israeli government’s very work of reform and personal failures worsened the situation.

When the war started, there was no place where the Israeli government could not make a pan-political mistake. The IDF scored many tactical successes in the Gaza Strip, which were not realized and used by the decision-makers in Israel. The IDF captured most of the Gaza Strip, except for the southern city of Rafah. For many months the Israeli government insists that the military operation in Rafah is coming when it is underway and nothing has happened. These months allowed Hamas, on the one hand, to arm themselves and try to turn Rafah into “Stalingrad” – a city without historical significance, but the place where they will fight to the last drop of blood.

Time passed, Israel did not act, and the number of refugees only increased. According to estimates, there are currently about one million Palestinian citizens in Rafah. The amount of refugees concentrated in the city prevents the international community, led by the United States, from opposing militarily in Rafah.

On the one hand, Israel wants to keep the number of refugees high as a bargaining chip in the hostage deal with Hamas. There are many reports about refugees returning to the north of the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, the high number of refugees in Rafah prevents the US from supporting a military operation.

In practice, the US pulled out a yellow card for Israel moment by moment that turned red from moment to moment. Hamas understands this situation and understands the international pressure on Israel, for example, the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campuses in the USA. When you add to the fact that refugees are returning to the north of the Gaza Strip, you can understand that Israel has no leverage against Hamas.

This situation can be solved with long-term strategic planning, something that the Israeli government and especially its leader refuse to do. Israeli equipment and decision-makers would have used the tactical successes of the IDF to build a governing alternative in the Gaza Strip, the operation in Rafah could have been carried out, and the military army of Hamas could have been eradicated. A governing alternative consisting of Israel, the United States as well as the moderate Arab states of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia could eradicate the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. The ruling alternative could have allowed the return of many refugees from the south of the Gaza Strip to the north, which would have cleared Rafah and allowed the IDF to eradicate the remaining military force of Hamas. In return for the establishment of this coalition, Israel had to make an “irreversible” political commitment that would lead to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Israeli government chose not to pursue this option based on internal considerations. The legendary Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “The State of Israel has no external policy, only internal policy.” How can we be angry and blame our owner if we don’t have a plan?

About the Author
Yossi Missri is a correspondent for Channel 13 - Foreign Desk, majoring in Law and Strategy, Diplomacy Government, Reichman University. Podcast: "Around the globe in 40 mins".
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