analysisIsrael at War

War’s progress stalled due to lack of clear policy

As Israel's government wavers, dwindling international support leaves leaders needing to decisively pursue victory.

Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
Ariel Kahana
Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.

Six months after the brutal Hamas attack, a cloud of paralysis envelops Israel’s defensive war. When it comes to the war’s objective—the destruction of Hamas and the return of the hostages—the ongoing status is one of indecision.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants Rafah but does not order the IDF to operate in the city. A hostage deal would mean succumbing to Hamas’s impossible demands, something to which no Cabinet member agrees.

On the other hand, Netanyahu is also afraid to decisively cut off talks, lest Ministers-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot accuse him of abandoning the captives. The Americans are putting spokes in our wheels as well (why are they even asked?), and so the war stagnates.

As Israeli leaders fail to make a coherent decision, international support is gradually fading. This was clear even before the Biden-Netanyahu call on Thursday, and it intensified a thousandfold afterward. Joe Biden still does not demand to stop the war outright and still supports the goal of destroying Hamas, but as the White House statement after the call showed—it’s becoming harder for him by the day.

As the presidential election campaign progresses, the fear that he will lose his job over support for Israel becomes real. Biden, justifiably from his point of view, will prefer his survival over Israel’s, so it’s unclear what we can expect.

As for Donald Trump, he has taken a vague stance on the war—wisely, he thinks—so as to enjoy the political fruits, but even he has stopped understanding Israel. I’m not sure I like the way they’re doing it because there has to be a victory, and it’s taking a long time, he said in a radio interview last week.

The passage of time from the horrors of Oct. 7 is depleting Israel’s international credibility, joining the endless pressures of the pro-Hamas community in the West. We will forever remember what Amalek did to us—but the world forgets. Thus, talk of an embargo against Israel is spreading, with hints at international arrest warrants. The sand in the hourglass is running out.

Israel’s security doctrine states that we should strive for a swift victory in wars, yet the political and military leadership that led us to this slaughter has, for some reason, also abandoned this important principle.

The War Cabinet pre-approved the military’s proposal for a war that would last a year as if Israel had a veto power of its own in the Security Council. And now, six months have passed, and the U.S. is the last one remaining to defend us in this hostile forum, and even for it, it’s becoming difficult to continue.

To get out of this mess and achieve the war’s objectives before the loss becomes final, Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, and Gantz must act decisively. Here and now. Not to procrastinate, not to delay. To decide and to act.

Since the chances of a deal are slim, the logical step is to conquer Rafah. It’s also the only chance to bring back the hostages. But if that’s impossible, it’s okay if the opposite decision is made. The main thing is to move and not to sink into the mud.

The history of most of the current leadership tells us that their inclination is passive and reactive.

Netanyahu as prime minister, and Gantz and Eizenkot as IDF chief of staff and his deputy, were the ones who hesitated for 50 days during “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, failing to defeat Hamas.

They are now obligated to prove that they are capable of achieving a different result—a decisive victory—and to do so as quickly as possible, contrary to their nature.

If they are capable of this—good. If not—they should make way for others. Time is short, and the war continues.

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