June 24, 2024

Rifts Emerge Among Top Israeli Officials Over Handling of War and Hostage Crisis

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Jan 21, 2024

Israel’s security cabinet, often referred to as the “war cabinet,” is divided over how to proceed with the ongoing conflict in Gaza and handle the hostage crisis, with rifts emerging between top officials on whether defeating Hamas or freeing captives should be the top priority.

Ceasefire Seen As Only Way to Free Hostages By Some Officials

Several top officials have stated that negotiating a ceasefire deal with Hamas is the only way to secure the release of two Israeli captives held by the militant group, clashing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated goal of using continued military action to eliminate Hamas’s capabilities.

  • Former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot argued on Israeli TV that “when there are two hostages in Gaza, only a ceasefire agreement can bring them back home” and said the cabinet had not been presented with a military plan that would both defeat Hamas and rescue the hostages.
  • Another minister, Michael Biton, similarly stated that “if we want to get the boys home, the only way is to reach a deal, and right now, from what I understand, there is no progress toward that.”

They and other officials contend that continuing airstrikes and attempts to degrade Hamas’s military infrastructure works against securing the hostages’ release, an urgent priority given fears for their wellbeing after one captive was killed earlier this month.

Netanyahu Accused of Misrepresenting Military’s Assessment

Eisenkot also directly accused Netanyahu of not “telling the truth” over assertions that the IDF believes Hamas can still be fully defeated, claiming “that is not what the military echelon thinks.” Reports indicate IDF commanders have presented the cabinet with an assessment that simultaneously eliminating Hamas and returning hostages alive is likely incompatible.

  • Four IDF generals were said to have told ministers that Hamas remains deeply embedded in Gaza and a prolonged conflict would probably endanger the remaining hostages.
  • Eisenkot argued that the IDF had not set the complete destruction of Hamas as a defined goal and that the group’s capabilities could only be damaged, not erased.

If true, it would mean Netanyahu overstated or misconstrued the military’s analysis regarding the current offensive against Hamas when claiming its leadership could be toppled. Ministers who advocate negotiating appear to align more closely with the IDF’s perspective.

Pressure Building Around Hostage Families

The divided positions come amid building public pressure centered around bereaved families and parents of the two surviving hostages demanding the immediate return of their sons.

  • One father appealed “as a bereaved brother, bring our boys home now,” while protests have erupted calling on the government to do everything possible to make that happen.
  • A cabinet member said they had “a duty, a moral duty to the families” that should be prioritized.

With criticism growing over the crisis and revelations of internal disagreements, some analysts believe Netanyahu could become more compelled to reach a resolution if he wants to maintain political and public support. However, others note his history of resisting ceasefires to continue military offensives.

Deal Seen As Increasingly Unlikely

Despite the rifts, recent reporting indicates the chances of a negotiated agreement to return hostages in exchange for easing Gaza’s isolation remains low, at least in the short term.

  • Israeli officials told Egyptian mediators that “calm” would only come after Hamas is disarmed, a non-starter condition for the militant group.
  • Hamas also still demands the release of re-arrested prisoners who were part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit exchange, which Israel refuses.
  • More fundamentally, sources say Netanyahu is unwilling to validate Hamas’s hostage strategy by cutting a deal now after it led to an escalation and Israeli deaths.

With core demands on opposing sides unmet, a bargain to free captives while leaving Hamas’s capabilities largely in place seems improbable. The loss of leverage after previously freed prisoners were rearrested also remains an obstacle. Unless positions substantially change, an impasse could prolong the crisis.

What Next? Pivotal Stage With High Stakes

By all accounts, the conflict with Hamas has entered a pivotal stage with extremely high stakes, as Israel weighs difficult tradeoffs, balances public and bereaved family pressures, and navigates internal disagreements between its top officials and with its military command.

With no clear resolution in sight regarding either the hostages or Gaza fighting, tensions around the crisis seem poised to intensify further. Unless Netanyahu pursues a ceasefire arrangement more in line with other officials and families’ demands, military operations appear set to continue with an ongoing risk of further captive losses. However, such a deal could also carry political risks for the Prime Minister and leave Hamas empowered.

The next several weeks could prove decisive, with a course still not definitively set. But the longer the current dynamics around the hostage crisis and Gaza offensive persist, the more pressure will likely grow on the Israeli government over its policies and internal divides. Significant decisions are ahead that could determine whether the conflict abates or escalates to a dangerous new level.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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