“I think we will have overall security responsibility indefinitely. We saw what happens when we don’t have it,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC News on Monday. In essence, he conceded the renewal of the occupation of the Gaza Strip.
“It is a statement that indicates that Israel will probably want to remain militarily present in Gaza for some time to ensure that Hamas does not re-emerge in a few months,” commented Irena Kalhousová, director of the Herzl Center, in an interview with Seznam Zpravy. of Israeli studies in Prague.
“On the other hand, some kind of reoccupation of Gaza is also not good news from the Israeli point of view, because it is clear that it will be completely unacceptable for the Gazans and will only deepen their radicalization and hatred,” adds the analyst.
The editors contacted Kalhousová exactly one month after the previous interview, which was an immediate response to the beginning of the terrorist attack on Israel by the Hamas movement on October 7. We asked her to evaluate the development of the conflict and to explain why she thinks that the current situation will soon result in the political downfall of Benjamin Netanyahu.
How has the mood in Israel changed in the month since the Hamas attack?
I think Israeli society went through a whole spectrum of emotions in that month. From fear and great concern to anger to the feeling that now we need to come together and somehow overcome the whole crisis together.
Recall the conversation from the first day of the war:
“Hamas could sense that Israel is weaker than usual due to the political crisis, and took advantage of that,” thinks Irena Kalhousová, director of the Herzl Center for Israeli Studies in Prague. According to her, the massive attack by Hamas will be compared to the Yom Kippur War, which took place 50 years ago.
This is perhaps the only positive factor of the whole event. The feeling of solidarity is really very strong in Israel right now. Everyone who can helps and tries to help not only the soldiers, but especially the survivors of the massacres, those who (due to attacks by Israel’s enemies and ongoing military operations, editor’s note) they had to evacuate from the south and the north of Israel, and of course the families of the abductees. The feeling of unity is really very strong in Israel now, I think.
How is the Israeli public reacting to the fact that the hostages have not been released a month after the attack?
I think that’s what it’s all about.
Of course, the question is whether this is a priority for the Israeli government, or whether the priority is to destroy Hamas. This is something criticized by family members of the survivors, who want the release of the hostages to be a priority at any cost.
The voice of these families, who protest that the government is not doing enough in this regard, can be heard in Israeli society and is often reflected in directly anti-government or anti-Netanyahu slogans. But the Israeli government is clearly negotiating.
Have the political preferences of Israelis changed significantly over the past month? How much support does Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have now?
If elections were held now, the original coalition would have no chance of winning a majority in parliament. Her preferences have dropped significantly.
The anger of the people of the attacked kibbutzim against the government is growing
Many Israelis who survived the brutal attack by Hamas are running out of patience with the government. They are angry because she didn’t protect them, and because the terrorists are still holding their loved ones. “Bring my children, I don’t care how you do it,” Hadas calls.
It can be seen that the Israelis consider Benjamin Netanyahu to be the big, if not the main, culprit. His popularity is very low even among right-wing voters. Among the center and left-wing voters, where he was not popular before, he hovers around four percent.
The anger and disappointment that the state has not been able to provide security among Israelis will certainly be reflected in the election results.
Could this result in Netanyahu being removed from power?
I am deeply convinced that Benjamin Netanyahu will not survive this security fiasco. The question now is rather whether, if the military operation would last weeks, if not months, it would last until the end. His popularity is really low and the pressure for his resignation, I think, will increase rather than decrease.
Is there any kind of intelligence reform being considered in Israel? Considering that many see the fact that they failed to prevent the Hamas attack as their colossal failure.
It’s too early for that. Israel will, of course, investigate what went wrong, where the mistake was, and who specifically caused it. It will likely be one of the most thorough investigations in the country’s history. I am convinced that it will lead to some reforms within those individual institutions, but now Israel is in the middle of a war and all resources need to be focused on the war.
So at the moment there are no changes because it is not even clear what changes need to be made. That will come after the war.
In the month since Hamas gunmen attacked Israel, where has the conflict itself moved?
The conflict has shifted to the Gaza Strip. Hamas terrorists are no longer operating on Israeli territory, which is crucial from Israel’s point of view. The conflict is currently concentrated in the northern part of Gaza, where Hamas has its military bases and command. The Israelis will probably focus their offensive there, but even the southern part of Gaza is not out of the fight. There, too, Israel tries to interfere with Hamas’ goals.
Talk about the Israeli ground offensive
“It may happen that Israel will prolong the occupation of the Gaza Strip indefinitely,” notes security expert Rob Geist Pinfold in an interview for Seznam Zprava. Israel does not know who will rule the region after the overthrow of Hamas.
The offensive may be proceeding slowly for some from a military point of view, but apparently relatively effectively. Israel is gradually reaching the city of Gaza with its massive military presence. The fighting is not entirely straightforward, because Hamas does not want an open fight. Rather, the Israelis try to find out exactly where the tunnels are, where exactly the terrorists are located, and then destroy those places, often from the air.
That’s one dimension, the military one. Then, of course, there is the second dimension, the humanitarian one. As a result of the war between Hamas and Israel, more than a million Palestinians have lost their homes and a large number of Palestinian civilians have evacuated from the north to the south, where the humanitarian situation is dire. An important aspect of the conflict will therefore be to improve or ease the situation of Palestinian civilians in the south.
The problem is, of course, that Hamas basically uses Palestinians as human shields and de facto uses the number of dead for its propaganda. They also actively prevent Gazans from the north from moving to the south, for example.
There are also concerns that Hamas will not misuse humanitarian aid for its own needs. We know that Hamas, for example, tried to evacuate some of its fighters to Egypt when the border opened for wounded Palestinians. The situation is really complicated.
In an interview with the American TV station ABC News, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel will accept overall security responsibility for the Gaza Strip after the end of the war with Hamas. How to interpret this statement?
It’s a statement that suggests Israel may want to remain militarily present in Gaza for some time to ensure that Hamas, its tunnels, and the entire terrorist infrastructure are not re-established within a few months.
On the other hand, some sort of reoccupation of Gaza is also not good news from the Israeli point of view, because it is clear that it will be completely unacceptable to the Gazans and will only deepen their radicalization and hatred. So, ideally, some international coalition should then take over the responsibility, and later the Palestinian Authority.
At the same time, it can be assumed that after the experience that Israel had on October 7, there will be a very strong call in the country for Israel to be the one to provide security in the area, at least for some time.
How long could such a situation last?
I have no idea, I can only speculate. I really wish it didn’t last long. But the question remains as to who else would take control of the security situation. That is a question for the international community. I hope that some kind of coalition can be created, but of course it is very difficult.
Interview with a Kurdish analyst
“When Iran is strong, the stability of the region, which the West needs for energy, cannot be counted on,” noted Kurdish analyst Ziryan Rojhilati in an interview for Seznam Zpravy. In addition to Iran and Hamas, he considers Russia to be the winner of the attack.
Is Israel dealing with the question of who might rule the Gaza Strip when the war ends?
The plans for the days after the war are not very concrete, because nobody really knows how to deal with Gaza.
(Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian Authority is ready to take control of Gaza after the war. That’s a statement that’s certainly good on one side. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority does not currently control even all the parts of the West Bank that it should control, because its position is very weakened. The question is whether it is even able to manage control over Gaza, where the popularity of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah (the main political group in the West Bank, note ed.) very low indeed.
It can be expected that the Israelis will not have confidence and trust that the Palestinian Authority will be able to prevent the rearmament of Hamas.
Will Israel be involved in any way in order for the Palestinian Authority to gain the respect of the people of the Gaza Strip?
Israel is the ultimate enemy in the eyes of the Gazans, and after the enormous trauma they have experienced and will experience during the war, Israel will probably be the last person they will trust. Of course there will have to be some rebuilding from within, and I hope Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will play a positive role in that.