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The Betrayal of the State

Israeli women demand the immediate release of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group at a protest in Tel Aviv, February 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Israeli women demand the immediate release of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group at a protest in Tel Aviv, February 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel’s undeclared decision to continue the war in Gaza, even at the expense of the abductees’ lives, will be documented as one of the darkest moments in the country’s history. According to recent reports, at the moment the number of civilians and kidnapped soldiers who remain alive stands at 83 of the abductees who remained in captivity after the recent daring rescue operation a week ago.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and many right-wing figures repeatedly repeat the mantra that “only continued military pressure on Hamas will lead to the release of the hostages.” Is that really so?

The ongoing IDF operations in the southern Gaza Strip, without a clear political end game, will not advance the release of the hostages. On the contrary. It will most likely kill them.

In the last four months, the IDF captured most of the Gaza Strip, and according to the latest reports, thousands of Hamas fighters have been killed, as well as many civilians, men, women and children. The continuation of the war and the killing of hundreds of additional Hamas members and innocent civilians will not fundamentally change the challenging situation in which Israel has found itself.

At this point in time, the Israeli government’s priorities in the war in Gaza must change immediately. Securing a deal for the release of the hostages should be at the forefront of the political and security agenda, even if Israel will be forced to agree to a ceasefire. Abandoning the hostages constitutes a fatal blow to the basic values ​​of Israeli society, of mutual guarantee and protection of citizens’ lives. The continuation of the policy of ignoring citizens in distress is characteristic of totalitarian regimes, not a democratic state and free society.

It is hard to imagine which of the previous Prime Ministers in Israel would have behaved in such a despicable manner when confronting the plight of Israeli captives and hostages held by the enemy.

In the Israel of the 1970s, Yoni Netanyahu was killed in an operation to rescue Israeli and Jewish hostages in Entebbe – and these days, his brother is oblivious to the demands for a ceasefire and a deal for the hostages’ release.

At this point of war in Gaza, Hamas’s military power has already been severely weakened, and the IDF’s continued entrenchment in the mud and tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, and the attempt to conquer Rafiah, may endanger the future of the peace agreement with Egypt and our relations with the USA. The Gaza Strip may very well turn into Israel’s ‘Vietnam War’.

A rational policy from Israel’s point of view would be to ask the US to establish an international task force that would include forces from Arab countries to assume security responsibility for the Gaza Strip and enable the Palestinian Authority to be in charge of the civilian population. Israel should withdraw from the Strip after the entry of these forces.

As a researcher of Israel’s deterrence, I believe that restoring the country’s deterrence vis-à-vis the Palestinians, Hezbollah and the other proxy organizations of Iran, will first and foremost be conveyed through the strong message that Israel stands by its citizens in times of need.

The IDF’s strength depends on the resilience of Israeli society. The Israeli government’s continued appalling policy is tearing apart the fabric of Israeli society, and the resulting price will be heavier than any that Hamas places on Israel as a condition for the return of the hostages.

About the Author
Dr. Dan Sagir is a research fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His book, "Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Secret Behind Israel's Nuclear Power," was recently published (Amazon).
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