OPINIONS

Thu 09 Nov 2023 8:39 am - Jerusalem Time

Hebrew press| It is uncertain whether the resumption of ground maneuvers will be possible after a truce

Author Nahum Barnea

Amos Hockstein is an American diplomat who was born in Israel, served in the Israeli army, and speaks Hebrew. He proved his abilities as a mediator when he reached an agreement to demarcate the maritime borders between Israel and Lebanon, an almost impossible task. The talks with Lebanon imposed direct and indirect contacts with Hezbollah. 

The relationships he built in Lebanon turned him into a vital partner in communications on the two fronts: the northern front facing Hezbollah, and the southern front facing Hamas. The interest is American, Qatar is the “tool,” and the Biden administration is the operator and the engine. Hochstein is accepted by people involved in communications on the Arab side, and he is also accepted by the Israeli government.


Since the first week of the war, the Americans have tried to push forward, through the Qataris, a partial deal that includes the release of children and women, and perhaps also adult men over the age of service in the Israeli army. This effort did not succeed, but the trend remained. In recent days, the Americans have shown some optimism, perhaps because of the military pressure that Hamas is suffering as a result of the Israeli military ground invasion, and perhaps because of the flexibility in the positions of the mini-ministerial council. The return of some of the abductees, but not all of them, according to what the Prime Minister said yesterday.


Meanwhile, the Israeli army continues its advance in the field towards the neighborhoods that form part of the urban area in Gaza. This progress allows for intensive treatment of the tunnels and the “Hamas saboteurs” inside them, but it also entails tough battles with these “saboteurs.” Hamas has prepared for this battle. It is true that it is losing many of its leaders and fighters, but it continues to fight. The backbone of the high command is still functioning, headed by Sinwar. Leaders can flee to the south and continue their work from there. Apparently, none of them did this.


The coming days could be the decisive final stage for both efforts: the fight against Hamas, and the American-Qatari attempt on a deal to release kidnapped persons. After this period, it will be difficult for Israel to stand against American pressure for a ceasefire, especially if there is a deal for kidnapped persons on the table. Time is running out.

Can Israel resume ground maneuvers after the ceasefire? Past experience in Gaza and Lebanon indicates that the opportunities are not great. 

The day after the ceasefire agreement, children return to school, residents return to work, settlement reconstruction begins, the world moves to another agenda, and reserve soldiers want to return to their homes, families, and jobs. The Israeli army will remain in Gaza and continue its movement there, but not with the current size of the forces.


It is important to maintain realistic expectations: it is not certain that the army will be able to reach Sinwar and his comrades in the current round. Even if they are assassinated, Hamas will not disappear; It is important to remember that we are not alone in this tragedy, and that we need the American administration, and we must listen to it. 


The votes that Biden is losing in the United States increase his urgent need for an imminent ceasefire in Gaza. It is important to remember that Gaza is only one piece of the devastation inflicted on Israel on October 7th. Now, the Israeli government is looking for a diplomatic solution that will lead to the expulsion of Hezbollah's Radwan Force from the northern border. Nasrallah has not turned into a lover of Zion, and the price he will demand will be high. Without removing Al-Radwan's forces, there is doubt that the residents will accept to return to their settlements in the north. This is without mentioning the issue of Hamas' demands in exchange for the return of some of the kidnapped persons.


When Netanyahu and others talk about a long-term war, they do not seem to mean the war that took shape in the first month, but rather a war of a different kind - focused assassinations, local incursions, and others. As long as the war continues, Netanyahu can curb the pressure demanding that he and his government bear responsibility. At the end of the first month of the war, there is no one in Israel who can celebrate victory. Sometimes, victory lies in realizing that there is no victory.


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Hebrew press| It is uncertain whether the resumption of ground maneuvers will be possible after a truce

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