How long will the Israel-Hamas truce last? It depends, says analyst
Israel could lose support from U.S. if it doesn’t rein in assault on Gaza: former Israeli gov't adviser
What began as a four-day ceasefire in Gaza has been extended two more days — and one former Israeli government adviser says the public would very much like to see it keep going.
The death and destruction inside the Gaza Strip, a walled-off enclave home to 2.3 million Palestinians, has been mounting over the last 50 days.
On Oct. 7, Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people taking 240 hostages, according to the Israeli government. In response, Israel enacted a siege and bombardment of Gaza, vowing to eradicate the militant group that controls the territory.
Since then, Israel has killed 14,000 Palestinians — more than 5,500 of them children — according to Gazan medical officials. About 1.8 million people, or 80 per cent of Gazans, have been displaced, the United Nations estimates. A number of human rights groups have called for a ceasefire, saying the attacks amount to collective punishment of civilians.
But the violence showed no signs of abating until last week, when Israel and Hamas announced a four-day truce, negotiated by Qatar, during which Hamas released 58 hostages in exchange for 117 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. On Monday, Qatar announced the pause in hostilities had been extended by two days "with the same conditions as in the previous truce."
Alon Pinkas, a writer and former adviser to the Israeli government, spoke to As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong about what might happen next. Here is part of their conversation.
How is the news of this two-day extension being received in Israel?
It's received very positively. I mean, people needed the respite. But it's also received as something that was expected and pretty much predictable, notwithstanding the bravado of some Israeli politicians — the prime minister prime among them — of: "We will continue and we will attack and we will relaunch and we will resume the minute that the ceasefire ends."
As far as the public is concerned, there are probably going to be — or they expect, at least — even more extensions.
Is the expectation that we would get to this point mostly because of ... such good feelings of seeing the Israeli hostages, of people, coming home, and the impact that that's had over the past few days?
It depends, Peter, who you ask. I mean, if you ask someone involved with the families, obviously and naturally that's the answer.
If you ask the average Israeli ... the release of some of the hostages …. obviously is what determines the mood.
If you ask people who take a little a broader perspective, they also expect this because they understand that the alternative is an ongoing military operation that will entail a lengthy Israeli presence in Gaza. And even people with the most gung-ho attitude toward "Let's shoot and let's destroy and let's bomb" understand viscerally and cerebrally that that will not and can not and should not be done.
Can you just walk us through what the calculation being made … by the Israeli government is here?
Let's just begin with this. The devastation of October 7th was on such a scale and of such magnitude that the absolute immediate and intuitive response was to retaliate massively. As is usually the case in these moments, that did not include a clear and coherent political goal.
And so 52 days later, Israel still doesn't have a clear and coherent political objective relating to the question of: OK, and then what? What's next the day after? Who's going to control Gaza?
And so the calculus that the government is making is let's hit them as much as we can, and maybe then — maybe — then start contemplating the next phase.
But you never run a war independently of other factors and outside pressures. And the U.S. has been pressuring Israel to come up with some kind of an idea or some kind of a vision on where this is all headed, which Israel, until now, has failed to do.
The government says we need to prove that we won. In order to prove that we won, we need to degrade Hamas to the point that it is incapacitated politically. The question is: Was this reached already or not? I don't know.
The concern at the outset was that a prolonged pause — whether you call it a ceasefire or not — but a prolonged pause would allow Hamas to dig in and retrench. What, then, is the calculation from Hamas's side? Do we even know?
That goes to the difference or the gap in both sides' definition of what constitutes a win.
If, for Israel, a win constitutes …. annihilating, eradicating Hamas, for Hamas, which is a non-state terror organization, all they need to [do to] define this campaign as a win is to stand on their feet and wave a flag — even if it's the last flag being waved.
So even if, in the next two or three weeks, you will see several surgical operations — limited incursions, what used to be called during the Vietnam era, "search and destroy missions," meaning a force goes in, but immediately after completing its mission, goes out — all Hamas needs to do is to stay alive even after these kind of attacks.
I think, militarily, they can actually achieve that. If you look at what's happened in Gaza physically and politically, I think that Hamas has been devastated. There's no question about that.
This is an extension for a mere two days. But if if it's working, do you have a sense of how long we might be able to see a pause in these hostilities?
That's subject to the release of hostages. Don't forget there are two distinct groups of hostages here.
There are the women and the children and the elderly and … the non-combatants, including the men among them. And there are several dozens still.
But then there's another group. These are IDF [Israeli Defence Force] soldiers, men and women.
The conventional wisdom is that it is doubtful that Hamas will negotiate their release as a quid pro quo thing, unless there's a grand bargain to be made ... meaning all Hamas prisoners for all hostages.
Until that happens, we could see a series of truces — or pauses, as you called it, correctly, rather than ceasefires — interrupted only by limited operations. So I think this is where the war is headed in terms of its dynamics.
You mentioned the U.S. pressure on Israel to push ahead with these pauses and more exchanges. I wonder how long do you think Israel can expect the United States to continue to support the military effort on the ground, if and when these pauses do give way?
[It] depends on the scale of that ground operation.
If it is anything similar to what has happened in the last few weeks in northern Gaza — meaning that Israel launches an attack in southern Gaza which replicates, essentially, the firepower, the amount of forces, that were committed in northern Gaza — then I think the U.S. may lose patience.
Because that increases the likelihood of an escalation between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and indirectly — even, you know, perhaps directly — with Iran. And that's something the U.S. wants to prevent.
If Israel … reconfigures its operational style here and conducts what I described earlier to you as, you know, surgical operations, search and destroy, then the U.S. will be tolerant to this for a longer period of time.
But in any event, in any of the two scenarios, Peter, we're looking at no more than two, three weeks, tops.
Interview produced by Kate Swoger. Q&A edited for length and clarity