Israel is currently focused on the sequential release of groups of our hostages held by Hamas. According to reports, some 52 hostages will be released over a four-day period as part of a temporary truce deal between Israel and the terror group. Three-quarters of them have already been released.
The question is: What follows? This is where things get not only murky, but potentially frightening.
Hamas is clearly hoping that we will become addicted to a daily schedule of releases, which will require a prolonged ceasefire. This scenario makes Hamas the puppet-master. It will be in full control of events and their timing. Moreover, as ceasefires are extended, Israeli leverage, born of battlefield success, will diminish. And it will embolden those who want Israel to stand down and end its military operations.
American and European leaders will proclaim: You’ll get all your people back, you inflicted heavy damage on Hamas, you killed a lot of Gazans—that sounds like enough. There is also the enormous economic cost of keeping hundreds of thousands of IDF reservists in the field.
Taken together, this could mean that the drumbeat for winding things down will become increasingly, even irresistibly loud.
This is a formula for disaster.
Israel is not fighting a war to recover hostages. We are fighting for the ground we stand on. Hamas’s barbaric Oct. 7 massacre taught us that we can no longer tolerate its existence on our border. Not if we want to have a southern Israel.
Thus, the danger inherent in the scenario outlined above—the loss of the determination to destroy Hamas—is absolute.
Israel’s troops in the field have certainly not lost their determination. A mountain of anecdotal evidence indicates that IDF soldiers are chomping at the bit to resume fighting and are completely opposed to winding down the war.
It is therefore easy to believe that the war will continue. We are just taking a pause because we had no other choice.
I hear this a lot, but forgive my skepticism. This skepticism is not directed at the Israeli people, even those fully immersed in the effort to bring all the hostages home. It is directed at our leadership.
That leadership first insisted that all the hostages be released, then caved in and agreed to the current truce. Given this, it is hard to have confidence that the chest-thumping of today will not soon yield to a far less aggressive posture.
What can we ordinary Israelis, who are hellbent on Hamas’s destruction, do about this?
First, we need to constantly remind our leaders that we, their constituents, demand resolution and determination from them. We will be very unforgiving of any deviation from the goal of defeating Hamas.
One example of this kind of reminder is the giant banner that my organization, Im Tirtzu, has just unfurled adjacent to the Beach Highway (Route 2) near the Gilot Junction between Tel Aviv and Herzliya. The banner says: “The People Demand Victory.” It then goes on to remind our leaders of the objectives that Israelis overwhelmingly support
1. Eliminate Hamas.
2. Permanently secure the Gaza corridor.
3. Secure the release of hostages.
4. Strike back in the north to neutralize the Hezbollah threat.
It is the job of Israel’s leaders, not their constituents, to plan for and execute these objectives. But once again, I fear that the citizenry is thinking more clearly and is more committed to achieving urgent national objectives than is our leadership.
Therefore, we the people should be unequivocal. We must tell our leaders that they must not let the natural desire to rescue hostages derail the urgent mission of defeating Hamas.
It ought to be crystal clear by now that negotiating for hostage releases without solving the underlying reason that there were hostages in the first place is simply an invitation to further abductions and further destruction.
It is us, the people, who must ensure that our leaders understand: They cannot let us down. They cannot assume that Israel will ever be safe again unless this threat is removed.
We take their claim that Hamas leaders are dead men walking very seriously. Make it happen.
No amount of humanitarian concern, no amount of international pressure, can change the Israeli people’s determination. Great leaders emerge in such times. They rise to the challenge and bring us along with them in their laser-like determination to achieve victory.
Netanyahu, Gallant and Gantz, the nation is looking to you to be steadfast, resolute and determined. This is your moment. Seize it. Bring us the victory that we, your citizens, demand. We will accept nothing less.