Two weeks after Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are likely preparing to wage a massive ground assault in Gaza. Though many Israelis are supportive of such a move, they don’t necessarily trust Netanyahu to carry it out — or have their future security in mind.
Prior to the October 7 attacks Netanyahu’s right-wing government was already deeply unpopular among large swathes of society. A plan to degrade the ability of the Supreme Court to push back on laws passed by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, sparked massive national protests out of concern that Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition would pass increasingly hard-line laws with no mechanism for pushback. Now, his government is being held at least partly responsible for the massive security failure that enabled the attacks.
Some of the highest-ranking officials in the government, including the head of the armed forces and the security services, have taken responsibility for the lapses and blind spots that allowed Hamas to kill at least 1,400 Israelis and kidnap 200, mostly civilians.
“The Military Intelligence Directorate, under my command, failed to warn of the terror attack carried out by Hamas,” Maj. Gen Aharon Haliva, head of the Israel Defense Forces military intelligence unit, said in a letter to IDF personnel. “We failed in our most important mission, and as the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, I bear full responsibility for the failure.”
But Netanyahu himself has thus far failed apologize or take responsibility for his government’s failure to carry out its primary task — to protect Israel’s citizens. Furthermore, the government’s strategy in Gaza and its war with Hamas remains unclear.
Israel’s military response — and the future of Gaza — is still being determined
Nearly two weeks after Netanyahu declared war on Hamas and 360,000 IDF reservists reported for duty, Israel’s military response — other than to make sure Hamas is “crushed and eliminated” — is as yet unknown, as is the government’s plans for Gaza once it achieves that objective.
In the past, Netanyahu has opted for airstrikes as retaliation against Hamas, rather than bloody and costly ground invasions.
According to a 2017 research brief by the RAND corporation, Israel has the military capability to wipe out Hamas, but doing so could perhaps be even riskier than not, given that an even more extreme organization could come into power — or that Israel could be put into the position of governing the territory itself. “As such, Israel’s grand strategy became ‘mowing the grass’ — accepting its inability to permanently solve the problem and instead repeatedly targeting leadership of Palestinian militant organizations to keep violence manageable.”
That strategy, of “mowing the grass,” is no longer satisfactory given its ineffectiveness and the enormous breach of the Israeli public’s trust that happened on October 7. There is support for a ground invasion, per a limited poll from the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv; 65 percent of Israelis believe it’s the correct response.
A ground operation could be incredibly difficult and costly both for Palestinians in Gaza and for the IDF, as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp explained: