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Israeli leadership divided over conflict with Hamas

02:14 AM Jan 21, 2024 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
israeli leadership divided over conflict with hamas
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New Delhi, Jan 20: The leadership of Israel is divided over its approach to the conflict with Hamas.

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Former military chief Gadi Eisenkot has called for snap elections, accusing the government of not being transparent about its offensive against Hamas.

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This comes as a stark contrast to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's steadfast commitment to continued military action until "total victory over Hamas."

The discord between Eisenkot and Netanyahu was laid bare in a recent television interview where Eisenkot not only advocated for elections within months but also expressed scepticism about trusting Netanyahu.

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The former military leader, a centrist minister and observer in the war cabinet, emphasized the need to rebuild trust among the Israeli public, stating, "It is necessary, within months, to return the Israeli voter to the polls and hold elections to renew trust because right now there is no trust."

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Eisenkot further diverged from the government's stance by asserting that the release of hostages held by Hamas should be a top priority. He argued that achieving this goal would require more than military force alone and suggested a potential halt in fighting as part of a negotiated deal with the militant group.

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This perspective sharply contrasts with Netanyahu's hardline to continuing the military offensive until the achievement of specific goals. The prime minister, in a press conference, vowed to "continue the fight with full force" and dismissed the idea of pausing the war for negotiations.

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The Financial Times newspaper reported that the internal rift extends beyond the conflict strategy, touching on strained relations within the war cabinet. Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, both members of the cabinet, are reportedly barely on speaking terms.

Gallant's office, when questioned about relations with Netanyahu, emphasized the focus on ensuring the security of the state and the necessity of unity in Israel's society and government for victory in the war.

A significant point of contention revolves around the release of hostages, with many Israelis urging a deal, even if it means halting the war.

Netanyahu and Gallant have categorically rejected such calls, emphasizing that only continued military pressure will lead to the hostages' release.

The lack of a comprehensive plan for postwar Gaza has also fuelled tensions, despite calls from the US administration, Arab governments, and the Israeli security establishment.

Netanyahu's political considerations are cited as a reason for avoiding discussions on this critical issue, with Gallant indirectly criticizing the prime minister's "political indecision."

Amid this internal strife, an initiative from Arab states aims to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages, potentially offering Israel normalization of relations in exchange for steps towards a Palestinian state.

However, Netanyahu rejected this plan, reiterating his opposition to a Palestinian state and asserting Israel's intention to retain security control over the designated territory.

Separately, Qatar and Egypt have been attempting to mediate a deal between Israel and Hamas, exploring possibilities for a temporary ceasefire and a path towards a lasting agreement.

International reactions to Israel's stance, particularly regarding a two-state solution, have been mixed. White House national security adviser John Kirby acknowledged differences between the United States and Israel on this matter. State Department representatives emphasized the necessity of a Palestinian state for addressing Israel's security challenges.

President Joe Biden, in a recent call with Netanyahu, discussed a two-state solution, signalling a departure from the previous administration's approach.

While some in the US express frustration over Israel's resistance to certain proposals, others hope that a renewed focus on the two-state plan could pave the way for lasting peace.

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