"Some Western politicians are discussing post-Hamas Gaza, and I tell them: Let go of your imagination and your dreams. Within a few years, you will have to discuss the situation of the region the day after Israel," Khaled Mashaal said shortly after the ceasefire went into effect. In a sarcastic and arrogant speech broadcast at a meeting of one of the global Islamic forums, the Hamas leader sought to validate Nasrallah's theory. He noted that the October 7 attack proved that Israel was "weak as a cobweb" and had inflicted an intelligence, military and cognitive defeat. He promised that the defeat would be "completed soon."
Galant on Haniyeh and Mashaal: "They live on borrowed time. Across the globe. They are all mortal" // Photo: GPO
Israel after October 7 does not need these words from Mashaal to remind it of what it is fighting for. At the moment, it seems, those who need them more are our friends in the White House, who have so far gone out of their way to help us in the war and the challenges around it (for which they deserve all praise and appreciation), but their position towards the next stage may make it difficult for Israel to achieve its goals vis-à-vis Hamas.
The message conveyed by the United States regarding the continuation of the war in Gaza can be summed up in a short sentence: the intensity of the fighting must be reduced and civilian aid increased. However, either demand would interfere with Israel's efforts to topple the Hamas regime and destroy its military capabilities. Responding to them will prolong the fighting, and will also significantly increase the risks to our soldiers.
Khaled Mashaal. "Aligning with Nasrallah," Photo: AP
Hamas refreshes forces
It is difficult to accurately mark where we are in relation to achieving Israel's goals. Suffice it to mention that the southern part of the Gaza Strip did not suffer a significant hit from Israel, where about half of the enemy forces are located.
When the fighting in the Gaza Strip resumes, the IDF will find Hamas in a different situation than the one it left it in, when the fire stopped. Indeed, rescuing the abductees from Hamas is an unquestionable moral and national obligation, but the costs and risks following the ceasefire granted as part of the benefits are also not easy. The time it bought in the deal to release the hostages allowed the terrorist organization some recovery from the offensive in the northern Gaza Strip. This time enabled him to assess the situation, bridge critical gaps, complete the military organization and refresh his forces for the next stage.
The ceasefire also allowed him to return to governance and demonstrate governance. This was clearly reflected in the way he conducted the hostage return operation. On the operational level, it was given an opportunity to arm itself, equip itself with fuel and logistical means that would add breathing space, collect intelligence, formulate up-to-date operational plans, prepare traps and ambushes, and tighten operational coordination between its components.
IDF forces in the Gaza Strip. Time to adopt an aggressive approach, Photo: Reuters
The ceasefire and the events during it strengthened the morale of its commanders and fighters, as well as their hope for an end to the war by way of an arrangement. The indirect negotiations that took place with him, even after the parallels between him and ISIS (or the Nazis), confirmed his hopes. The axis of conduct of the negotiations has strengthened, as has Qatar's status as a central mediator within the framework. To all this we must add the points he also receives from the public in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem thanks to his achievements in releasing terrorists and his "steadfastness" vis-à-vis Israel.
When the fighting in the Gaza Strip resumes, the IDF is expected to meet Hamas with high operational readiness and strengthened spirit. Precisely then it would be right to adopt a more aggressive approach that reduces the risks to our forces, even if it goes against the expectations of the White House.
Collapse the "State of Gaza"
The same applies to the scope of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip. Israel's expectation to allow (and even increase) humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip is based on two assumptions. Both, in my humble opinion, are wrong. The first is that the war is being waged between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization independently of the "State of Gaza," and the second is that there is a practical possibility in the Gaza Strip of separating between "aid to Hamas" and "assistance to the population."
The simple reality is that Hamas leads the "State of Gaza." He has harnessed all the systems and resources of the "state," received the support of most of its residents, and is thus waging his war against Israel. The political echelon's determination of toppling the Hamas regime as one of the goals of the war also includes the expectation to collapse the connection points between Hamas and the state system and the regime's centers of gravity. Thus, the de-facto Hamas administration will not be able to provide for the residents' needs, and will not be able to provide them with any services or enforce its directives on them. Extensive civilian assistance to the population contradicts this. It will absolve Hamas of its obligations towards its residents, prevent anger from being directed at it, and serve as a temporary solution until it returns to normal. This will prolong the fighting and its costs in all areas.
Transfer of abductees from Hamas to Red Cross personnel, photo: Reuters
If this is not enough, it is worth remembering that in the reality that has emerged in the Gaza Strip, it is almost impossible to separate "aid to civilians" from "assistance to Hamas." Hamas is deeply rooted in all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip. Through his network of collaborators, he will be able to receive or take for his needs everything that enters the Gaza Strip, regardless of the transfer pipeline or the entity entrusted with it.
In contrast to Israel's generous approach to humanitarian issues, in this case Israel should take a rigid, suspicious and minimalist approach: allow only necessary assistance, and only when necessary.
Return of abductees - while fighting
The issue of abductees will continue to challenge Israel. As far as Sinwar is concerned, the hostages in his hands have a dual role: they are the human shield for ensuring Hamas' survival, and they are also the trump card by which Israel can be forced to release all the detained terrorists ("laundering all the prisons" as Hamas spokesmen call it) and allow the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
Once we have entered this process and are already paying its price, we must exhaust the period of time that the government has given to the current process. After that, the effort to return the abductees must continue under fire, under cover of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, while treating all the abductees as a single unit and transferring mediation efforts to the Egyptians. The military attack is necessary in order to destroy Hamas' capabilities, but as we have seen, it also improves the chances and conditions for the return of the hostages.
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