“We won’t stop until victory,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a short, televised address on Friday. He told the Israeli people that he had rejected U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s suggestion of a humanitarian “pause” in the fighting that does not include a release of their hostages. He also says Israel “will not enable the entry of fuel to Gaza.”
He promised that victory will be “sharp and clear” and will “resonate for generations.”
For the first time since the war began, we can see daylight between the U.S. and Israeli governments. As Israel continues to prosecute a war that, by necessity, is leading to a high civilian death toll, Israel’s friends find it more and more difficult to give the Jewish state unqualified support.
I’m pretty sure Netanyahu was aware of this going into the war. It doesn’t appear that anything the United States says or does will deter him from achieving his number one war aim: destroying Hamas so they can never threaten to security of the Israeli people again.
He says he told Blinken that “Israel refuses a temporary ceasefire that does not include the release of our hostages. Israel will not enable the entry of fuel to Gaza and opposes sending money to the Strip.”
He notes that Israel has lost hundreds of civilians and soldiers on and since October 7 — wonderful fighters, incredible Israelis… people who blocked these monsters with their bodies.”
He tells some of their stories and says they “sacrificed their lives for our lives.”
“We are trying to fight with minimal danger to our warriors, but we will do whatever is needed to defeat our enemies,” he concludes.
Indeed, the call for a “humanitarian pause” would only give Hamas time to regroup and dig in. And a pause would definitely do no favors for the Israeli and foreign hostages being held in Gaza. Netanyahu has no choice. All he has for leverage regarding the hostages is Israel’s ability to make life absolutely miserable for Gazans.
Hamas, of course, is doing fine. It’s the Gazans who are suffering and even if public opinion turned against Hamas — a remote possibility — the terrorists wouldn’t care. They’re not at war to save the Palestinians or create a homeland for them. They are fighting a holy war to destroy Israel.
Hamas certainly doesn’t care about a “pause” except how they can use it to better their strategic position.
As Israeli forces have advanced, quickly encircling Gaza City and bearing down on tunnel networks and strongholds, Hamas would like nothing more than to slow them down.
It strains credibility to think Hamas wouldn’t use a pause to its advantage. Nor is Hamas likely to release all hostages and forfeit its best leverage. It may drag out negotiations, dribbling out hostages to win reprieve after reprieve, plus propaganda bumps.
The way to help Palestinian civilians isn’t to slow the Israeli advance. The less control Hamas has over Gaza’s streets, the more civilians can escape the fighting and the more aid can be brought in securely. The ground invasion has already allowed humanitarian assistance to ramp up, with more than 100 truckloads now arriving each day. Hamas would use freedom of action to keep civilians as shields and pilfer more aid—limiting what Israel can let in.
The fate of the hostages may be uncertain but they are possibly Hamas’s last, most potent weapon. As their infrastructure and fighters are being systematically eliminated, Hamas’s only hope for survival is the intercession of others — the United States in particular — who could use its influence to stop Israel short of their primary war aim of destroying Hamas.
At the moment, Biden is still — reluctantly — on board. But Biden is in a campaign for re-election and anything is possible if American public opinion changes.