Situation Report: Biden caves to leftists, pressuring Netanyahu on ceasefire

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The Biden administration has succumbed to pressure within the Democratic Party, and has formally moved to open a gap with Israel and take a more neutral position in the Hamas-Israel conflict.  This morning, President Biden called Israel for the fourth time in a week, but this time he demanded that Israel  take immediate steps to calm the situation and move toward a ceasefire.  In the last 24 hours, an Egyptian proposal was tabled for a ceasefire tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 6AM Israel Daylight Time (11PM Wednesday night US EDT).  According to the Egyptians and the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has accepted this ceasefire proposal, while Israel has thus far not provided an answer.

That said, sources within Israel’s cabinet and defense structures indicate that Israel is seriously considering accepting the ceasefire, but starting Friday morning at 6AM rather than Thursday.  The origins of leaks from sources from the political level and within Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) are revealing but present a mixed picture. Some leaks coming from the political level indicate the IDF believes Israel’s counter-campaign has reached the peak of utility. In contrast, leaks coming from the top defense officials more directly indicate the IDF still has intelligence on numerous high-value targets which could still take days of operations to exploit.  In other words, the pattern of leaks from the political level are calibrated to set the stage after the war to argue that the military level was not only on board but also saw utility in a ceasefire, while the military level is signaling that there is no operational reason to halt the IDF’s activity, and thus it punts the decision entirely to the political level.

Clearly, the political level is moving toward ending this counter-attack on Hamas, but it fears political backlash and is seeking to hide behind the IDF. This is revealing, and suggests public opinion has tangibly moved against another inconclusive resolution of this latest round of war with ever larger circles of voices arguing that this war cannot end until the Hamas government in Gaza is eliminated and all missing soldiers and Israelis from previous rounds are returned home. The remains of three dead Israeli soldiers and one living Israeli civilian, Avra Mengistu, are being held by Hamas. Demonstrations are beginning opposite the Prime Minister’s house demanding there be no ceasefire without a clear victory and a return of missing soldiers and the civilian. Moreover, these demonstrations are led by some of Israel’s most respected and popular public culture figures, such as the singer, Shlomi Shabbat.  This may be the first volley of the political upheaval which will follow the war in Israel in the coming months.

On the ground, after the first 6 days of declining pace of missile strikes onto Israel, the last three days has seen again a clear trend toward increasing Hamas activity. The damage and lethality of these appear to be on the increase too.

On Wednesday, for the third time this war, missiles were shot into northern Israel from Lebanon.  The IDF believes all were fired by Palestinian factions.  This latest round, however, was qualitatively different.  First, one Israeli is in critical condition from shock-induced heart attack. Second, longer range missiles with larger warheads were used, and they were shot at the concentrated population center of Haifa Bay.  The motivation of these launches is under debate within the IDF. While all agree Hizballah rules southern Lebanon with an iron fist, even within the Sunni Palestinian refugee camps, Israeli intelligence analysts differ over interpretation. One interpretation is that Palestinian factions are trying to entangle Hizballah in the war, with another is that these are green-lighted attacks by Hizballah to signal their support for Hamas without making themselves the direct target in response.

Finally, the humanitarian shipments into Gaza, including fuel, which the Israelis were allowing were halted this morning after the fourth attack in two days on the Kerem Shalom crossing point by Hamas. Hamas uses the attempts to bring in humanitarian shipments into Gaza to target Israeli soldiers who were exposed inherently by their activity to logistically move the trucks through the crossing. Thus far there have been Israeli soldiers injured, but none killed at the crossing.

David Wurmser

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