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Feb 5, 2024, 4:49pm EST
securityMiddle East
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Semafor Signals

Netanyahu wants to continue the war in Gaza for months to eradicate Hamas

Insights from The Conversation, The Jerusalem Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Haaretz

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Smoke rises from Khan Yunis district as Israeli attacks continue in Rafah of Gaza on February 05, 2024.
Anadolu via Getty Images/Abed Rahim Khatib
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that the war in Gaza will not end without the killing of Palestinian militant group Hamas’ leadership, stressing it would take “months not years.”

“We will not end the war before we complete all of its goals: the elimination of Hamas, the return of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel,” Netanyahu said.

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He added that Israel will not agree to a hostage deal at “any price,” saying Hamas has presented “demands that we will not accept” in negotiations for the release of more than 130 hostages held in Gaza. Netanyahu said the terms of any new agreement should be “similar” to the previous temporary truce last November when some Israeli hostages were exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Israelis increasingly see Netanyahu’s strategy to continue the war as unrealistic

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Sources:  
The Conversation, Ehud Olmert

An increasing number of Israelis worry that Netanyahu’s strategy to continue the war in order to release hostages poses a greater threat to the lives of those captive, and amplifies doubts over whether “Israel can actually decisively defeat and destroy Hamas,” a scholar of Israeli politics told The Conversation. As his domestic unpopularity grows, “Netanyahu’s only hope is to continue the war and try to achieve the ‘total victory’ over Hamas that he has been promising,” the scholar said.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a longtime Netanyahu critic, also called for Israel to “end the fighting… period,” to bring the hostages back alive. In a December op-ed for the left-leaning Haaretz, Olmert argued that Netanyahu was well aware that his rhetoric to destroy Hamas was “baseless” and would “ultimately collapse” both on a military and humanitarian front. But Netanyahu will not agree to end the hostilities, “because he believes his personal future, his survival, his political career, his legacy, his family and children all depend on continuing the war,” Olmert wrote. “For that, he is willing to let the nation burn.”

Divisions apparent within Netanyahu’s cabinet

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Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Post, Haaertz

Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir caused a political firestorm in a Wall Street Journal interview where he slammed what he sees as the Biden administration’s lack of support for Israel, saying that U.S. actions would be different “if Trump was in power.” The comments sparked condemnation from several Israeli ministers, including some who called on Netanyahu to reprimand or fire Ben-Gvir for damaging Israel’s foreign relations. Netanyahu also appeared to rebuke his remarks saying, “I don’t need help to know how to navigate our relations with the U.S. and the international community while standing firm on our national interests…I’ve been doing this for several years.”

The controversial comments expose the deepening rifts within Netanyahu’s war cabinet and coalition government, and mark the increasing “political leverage” that far-right figures like Ben-Gvir have in the country, the Jerusalem Post reported. “I would call on the prime minister to rein him in, but Netanyahu has no control over the extremists in his government,” opposition leader MK Yair Lapid said. One columnist for the left-leaning Haaretz argued that Ben-Gvir’s comments were less an attack on the White House, and more targeted at Netanyahu who “came out looking like a weak leader.”

More and more US adults think Israel has ‘gone too far’ in Gaza war

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, AP-NORC, The New York Times

“Hamas’s assault ... attack ... barbarism on Oct. 7 is indefensible,” Washington Post columnist Jason Rezaian said on the Post’s “Please, Go On” podcast.. “And it can be also true that the scale of the response is completely indefensible.” He expressed concerns that in the U.S. there is less space to hold “those two conflicting thoughts” and for people in power to endorse them.

However, a recent poll said that as of January, 50% of U.S. adults think Israel’s actions in Gaza had “gone too far.” That’s up from 40% who said the same in November, according to an AP/NORC poll. After showing strength and garnering international support for its help in Ukraine, the U.S.’ backing of Israel is increasingly isolating the nation from its allies, The New York Times reported. Much of the world now “sees the Biden administration as enabling an indefensibly lethal Israeli military campaign,” the outlet wrote in December.

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