The Jerusalem Post newspaper published an article analyzing the recent statement made by Benny Gantz who is currently member at the Israeli war cabinet, regarding Israel’s plan to deal with Gaza.
Gantz’s most detailed revelation of Gaza war plans, according to him, the government’s sole goal of destroying Hamas and reshaping reality in Gaza was modified by multiple other goals.
Gantz who joined the current cabinet, took responsibility for the failure to anticipate a Hamas invasion, but more importantly, he defended the government’s delay of the invasion.
According to the article, he didn’t say these explicit words, but he said that he was at the center and agreed with all the government’s decisions regarding the war – and the government had refrained for about three weeks from ordering a counter-invasion of Gaza.
In separate messages, the Israeli government and army said from the beginning that they wanted to return the hostages as well as eliminate Hamas.
However, in the early days of the war, a senior diplomatic official at the time made it clear that concern about hostages getting caught in the crossfire would in no way slow the IDF’s attacks on Hamas.
This signal ultimately turned out to be inaccurate, as the ground invasion was postponed for weeks, and Gantz made clear that the attempt to rescue the hostages was not just a tactical matter, but a strategic consideration.
Gantz is believed to still be aware that destroying Hamas is the primary goal, but the fact that he did not use those words publicly shows how much the fate of the hostages weighs on him and key decision-makers as a strategic issue.
The United States has been less timid than Israeli officials, and has openly called for a smaller invasion, similar to the limited Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2014, with far fewer elite forces pushing into urban areas.
Gantz explained that the Gaza strategy is greatly influenced by concerns about the next moves of Hezbollah and Iran.
One practical consequence of this is to wait longer until more US missile defense is deployed to dissuade Hezbollah from intervening, and when the IDF eventually launches a ground invasion into Gaza.
It’s unclear whether Gantz and the Israeli cabinet belief that the United States will continue to support Israel’s right to get rid of Hamas even for weeks and months will be correct.
It’s also unclear whether Gantz and the cabinet believe that the Israelis evacuated from the north and south will wait as long as the Israeli army decided to wait until the ground entry to return to their homes or start protesting the government policy.
Prior to the Jerusalem Post article being published, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant similarly blurred the disparate goals of destroying Hamas and rescuing the hostages, calling rescuing the hostages the ultimate goal.
In the absence of clarity, Gantz’s speech, and to some extent Gallant’s, indicated what has changed and where Israel is headed.