DC Edit | Gaza war: Few options are left for Israel’s Netanyahu

The Gaza war has just passed the six-month mark but, despite encouraging news about the ceasefire talks on in Cairo, the immediate future appears bleak, with the Israel Army preparing to attack Rafah.

The beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, buffeted by a growing backlash against the brutal Israeli campaign, in retaliation for the October 7 attack by Hamas, and fast losing all the goodwill of his staunchest backers in the USA and the UK, seems determined to stay on the warpath.

Netanyahu’s troubles have only been made worse by massive protests at home, with one lakh people gathering in front of the Israeli Parliament on Sunday demanding a hostage deal and calling for fresh elections.

It all boils down to the choices ahead for Mr Netanyahu, that is if he has any left other than keeping up the offensive on the Gaza Strip and playing one last roll of the war dice in attacking Rafah and creating what could be an even greater humanitarian crisis as a million plus refugees from the rest of the territory are seeking haven there.

The Gaza war has rained untold misery on millions of Palestinians in the aftermath of Hamas’ surprise strike on southern Israel that left 1,170 people, mostly civilians, dead. In the retaliatory war that Israel launched and has sustained for six months, as many as 33,175 Palestinians are dead, over 70 per cent of them women and children while Israel may have lost around 250 military personnel.

Netanyahu’s dilemma lies in Hamas holding at least 129 hostages of the 250 Israeli and foreign citizens they had abducted on October 7 before crossing back into Gaza. While the fate of some is unknown, it is believed that at least 100 remain hostages and their release alone can bring the Israeli PM a breather.

Such is the nature of the dilemma that he cannot accept any hostage deal as Hamas insists on a total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails could easily be exchanged for the hostages, but any deal calling for an Israeli withdrawal may leave a vacuum in Gaza into which Hamas will regroup at once.

American President Joe Biden, irritated to the extent of making increasingly terse calls to Mr Netanyahu, is calling for curtailing of the killing of civilians and improving the humanitarian conditions in Gaza, which currently are a version of Dante’s hell with starvation adding to the misery of the territory whose many cities have been reduced to rubble, leaving only Rafah that is under a threat of full-scale invasion and bombardment now.

There is no future in calling general elections for the besieged Israeli Prime Minister and it is always on the cards that right wing hawks will still find favour with a country that has been attacked and is striving to secure itself and its territory and protect itself from possible retaliation by the Iran’s militant proxies of the Middle East after Israel’s misadventures in killing Iranian generals in Damascus.

Israel had gone into total war without a thought lent to the post-war scenario. A two-state solution to the long-standing Palestinian homeland issue may be ideal as the world sees it but cannot even be lent a thought to until the war ends, and peace is first given a chance.

After the Hamas attack, the bloodshed in disproportionate response and the talk of ceasefire, it is only the Israeli response to peace overtures from the international community that will decide what happens from here. The question is does Mr Netanyahu have any options other than a total victory over Hamas, which may be unattainable.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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