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Netanyahu's Misguided Gaza Strategy Threatens Israel's Future: Fareed Zakaria
Opinion
By Opinion
Published 1 month ago on
May 20, 2024

In Israel, senior military figures are openly challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's management of the Gaza conflict, citing concerns about the absence of a clear strategy and advocating for alternative approaches, while the Biden administration underscores the importance of engagement and nuanced solutions to address the ongoing crisis. (AP/Gali Tibbon)

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In Israel, a remarkable shift is underway: Prominent military figures are openly criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the conflict in Gaza, writes Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria.

Reports in the Israeli media highlight a recent security meeting where General Herzi Halevi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, voiced concerns about Netanyahu’s lack of a clear strategy. Halevi cautioned that without a plan to establish a non-Hamas government in reclaimed territories, repeated military operations would become inevitable, as seen with the re-entry into northern Gaza, previously cleared in January.

Israeli Defense Minister Rebukes Netanyahu

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant went a step further, publicly rebuking Netanyahu and emphasizing the need for alternative governance beyond Hamas. This dissent within the Israeli military appears coordinated, as noted by Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz, signaling a significant departure from supporting the prime minister’s directives.

The root cause of this dissent lies in the recognition among Israeli officials, echoing long-standing warnings from U.S. counterparts that the absence of a coherent governance strategy in Gaza risks perpetuating insurgency, akin to the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Evidence of this reality is mounting. Israeli forces have been compelled to re-enter previously cleared areas like Jabalya and Zeitoun multiple times, with the recent controversial raid on al-Shifa Hospital underscoring the fleeting nature of initial successes. Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, highlighted Hamas’ resurgence in areas previously cleared by Israel, signaling a persistent challenge.

While debates rage about Israeli military tactics and civilian casualties, the crux of the issue lies in counterinsurgency strategy. Drawing from the successful 2007 surge in Iraq, which prioritized protecting civilians and engaging with insurgent communities, a stark contrast emerges with Israel’s predominantly force-driven approach against Hamas, neglecting civilian sentiments.

Netanyahu Focus Harms Israel’s Long-Term Interests

Netanyahu’s steadfast commitment to military victory disregards the necessity of a political strategy to undermine Hamas’ legitimacy.

The Biden administration has consistently advocated for a nuanced approach, emphasizing engagement with the Palestinian Authority and regional stakeholders to facilitate Gaza’s reconstruction and governance, sidestepping Netanyahu’s insistence on Hamas capitulation.

Netanyahu’s reluctance to engage in postwar planning reflects not only strategic differences but also personal stakes. Facing domestic scrutiny and potential electoral defeat, he clings to the notion of military triumph, prolonging the conflict to maintain political relevance.

This self-serving strategy jeopardizes Israel’s long-term security in favor of short-term political gain.

Check out the full column by Fareed Zakaria: The Washington Post

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