Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing increasing international pressure to end his nation’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, but said he will continue until Hamas is eliminated.
U.S. President Joe Biden criticized Israel earlier this week, saying it was losing global support due to its “indiscriminate” bombing of the enclave, his strongest remarks against Israel’s actions so far. But Netanyahu has taken a defiant tone, telling the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Wednesday that “we are continuing until the end, until victory, until the elimination of Hamas,” even as Israel announced its heaviest combat losses in more than a month.
Support for Israel is sliding in Washington
Biden faces a growing backlash over his ongoing support of Israel in its war against Hamas. Congress is considering a $14 billion aid package to fund the conflict, but Democrats have mooted making the funding conditional on resolving the humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, the U.S. has delayed the sale of more than 20,000 assault rifles to Israel over concerns that they would be used in attacks against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. Biden’s administration has become increasingly isolated in its support for Israel in recent days: The U.S. was one of just 10 countries that voted against an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip at the U.N. General Assembly this week.
Netanyahu under fire
At the heart of Israel’s dwindling support is Netanyahu himself, an editorial in Israeli newspaper Haaretz argued. “He’s not acting for Israel’s good but only for his political survival,” the paper noted. Netanyahu has been accused of using the war to launch his reelection campaign, though there is currently no date set for Israel’s next election. Once the fighting subsides, Netanyahu’s government — which has faced sliding domestic support since the war began — will have to reckon with the political fallout and likely loss of support in Parliament, Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer wrote. “Israelis have finally had enough of him. But he’s going to try to cling to power anyway, divide the country at a time of war and jeopardize Israel’s strategic alliance with the United States in the process.”
Rejection of a two-state solution
A two-state solution has long been touted as a way out of the conflict, and is endorsed by the U.S. But Israeli government officials have roundly rejected the possibility, and it’s likely that Netanyahu views opposition to the plan as a way to secure his political future. “Netanyahu clearly identified the issue of postwar arrangements in Gaza as a political opportunity to dig himself out of the political grave,” Yohanan Plesner, of The Israel Democracy Institute, told The Wall Street Journal.
Netanyahu ‘blocks’ hostage negotiations
Israel’s war cabinet reportedly blocked efforts by the nation’s spy agency Mossad to restart hostage negotiations. Mossad head David Barnea was prevented from traveling to Qatar for talks by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to Israeli media reports. Family members of the remaining hostages have expressed their frustration with the delay, writing in a statement that they are “at their wits’ end with the indifference and stagnation.” Around 138 hostages are believed to still be held by Hamas following the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.