Netanyahu: Israel will take ‘overall security responsibility’ in Gaza

Benjamin Netanyahu started off his ABC News interview with David Muir last night by thanking Joe Biden and the American people for our unwavering support and unity with Israel. It didn’t take long, however, for the Israeli PM to throw some cold water on the Biden administration’s urgent diplomatic push for “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza.

As for a formal cease-fire, Netanyahu expressed a small opening — as long as Hamas gave up all its hostages first:

“Well, there’ll be no cease-fire, general cease-fire, in Gaza without the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu responded. “As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there. We’ve had them before, I suppose, will check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages to leave. But I don’t think there’s going to be a general cease-fire.”

Netanyahu continued, “I think it will hamper the war effort. It’ll hamper our effort to get our hostages out because the only thing that works on these criminals in Hamas is the military pressure that we’re exerting.”

Muir then asked Netanyahu if there would be such a pause if Hamas to agree to the release of hostages. According to Israeli officials, 241 people are being held by the militant group.

“There will be a cease-fire for that purpose,” Netanyahu responded.

That’s a pretty safe concession. Hamas will never trade all of the hostages for a cease-fire. They may trade some for that purpose, although even that may be too humiliating for a cease-fire-in-place, which is clearly what Netanyahu means here. Any IDF soldiers would be kept to bargain for the release of terrorists imprisoned by Israel, as has occurred in the past. The days of Gilad Shalit-scale exchanges have clearly ended, however, and Israel doesn’t even appear to be contemplating a 1:1 exchange ratio any longer. It’s Hamas delenda est all the way down now.

So the Israeli offer of a cease fire in this context works mainly for political purposes. Hamas committed war crimes in kidnapping hostages in the first place, but at least Israel offered a cease fire as an exchange. If Hamas doesn’t accept it and abide by it, oh well. It shifts the onus back to Hamas, especially with nations whose citizens are among the kidnapped.

What about the humanitarian pauses? Biden and his team keep pushing, but Netanyahu still won’t yield there either, except where it makes tactical sense on the battlefield. Israel has to consider the safety of their military personnel, who will be at higher risk during such “pauses,” as Hamas would certainly attempt to take advantage during those periods. The military on the ground is safest while they remain operational. The people in Gaza can surrender if they want humanitarian aid, especially in the northern end, which Israel warned for three weeks to evacuate before the ground war started.

Whatever his other faults — and the Israelis will hold an accounting for those — Netanyahu plays this game far better than Biden and his team. Laying this out on American television while ‘thanking’ Biden for his support is a smart move.

The real news from this interview, however, is about the status of a post-war Gaza. Israel would clearly prefer not to re-occupy the territory for any length of time, but it appears that they have no choice. Netanyahu told Muir that Israel would have to control its security for “an indefinite period”:

Last month, Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant suggested the final phase of the was would be to sever “Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip” and establish a “new security reality for the citizens of Israel.”

“Those who don’t want to continue the way of Hamas,” Netanyahu told Muir. “It certainly is not — I think Israel will, for an indefinite period will have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it. When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine.”

Clearly, Israel can’t do what it did in 2005, which was pull out and leave the Gazans to their own devices. But it will be extremely difficult to establish a new military occupation, for tactical, strategic, and political reasons. The best-case scenario would have Israel find a friendly Sunni nation to run an occupation immediately after the defeat of Hamas, either by itself or as the head of a coalition of Sunni nations. The Saudis would make the most sense, apart from the Egyptians, but the Egyptians want nothing to do with Gaza. The Saudis have every reason to suppress Iran’s proxies, and have the requisite toughness to deal with Gazans who collaborate with Iran. The Jordanians would be another option, although one has to wonder whether they have the resources and toughness to make that mission succeed.

One thing is certain: a Western coalition for occupation should be a non-starter. Our peacekeeping mission in Lebanon in the early 1980s serves as a reminder as to the lack of will we would have in actually imposing peace and order. Gazans will not respond well to Western troops and would almost immediately start attacking as a means to force us into retreat, as Hezbollah did in Lebanon.

If the Saudis won’t step up, it doesn’t leave the Israelis much choice. They will have to do it themselves, and hope that they can find moderate elements within a post-Hamas Gaza that can exert enough authority to force real change. Either that, or maybe the Israelis hope the Saudis can be eventually convinced that a pacified Gaza without Hamas or other Iranian proxies is in their best interests enough to do it themselves — which it is.

In other news from the front, the IDF tracked down and killed a Hamas cell operating out of Al-Quds Hospital in northern Gaza. This hospital has come up in previous news reports, most of those scolding Israel for attacking the health-care infrastructure in and around Gaza City.  You’ll never guess what happened next.


Elsewhere in the Strip, a terror cell that barricaded itself near the al-Quds Hospital was gunned down by Israeli fighter jets guided by the IDF’s 36th Armored Division.

As per the military, the cell planned to launch an attack on the ground forces from its barricaded position.

The aerial strike on the cell caused a large secondary explosion on the ground adjacent to the hospital, indicating the presence of a cache of explosions and other Hamas weaponry stored in the vicinity of the hospital.

If Gazans and the elite international cognoscenti want humanitarian aid to reach civilians, perhaps they might first tell Hamas to move their command and munitions assets away from health-care facilities.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post