Op-ed

Day 37 of the war: The IDF wants a year to defeat Hamas; Macron would have it stop now

People abroad who care about us keep asking me two things: How is the war going, and will Israel recover? It amounts to the same question

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) greets French President Emmanuel Macron before a meeting in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023. (Photo by Christophe Ena / POOL / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) greets French President Emmanuel Macron before a meeting in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023. (Photo by Christophe Ena / POOL / AFP)

In retrospect, the signs were there from the start.

French President Emmanuel Macron flew to Israel on October 24 and pledged his “full solidarity” in the aftermath of the Hamas slaughter of 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7. He even proposed some kind of international coalition to “fight against Hamas.”

He also told President Isaac Herzog that day, however, “You can fight without hesitation… but without widening the conflict. A targeted operation is essential.”

Three days later, France backed a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution, which passed with a huge majority, that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and made no mention of Hamas. The US was one of 14 countries that voted against, and most countries Israel considers allies also either opposed or abstained on the resolution.

And then, on Friday, Macron told the BBC that Israel had to stop bombing “these babies, these ladies, these old people” in Gaza, and demanded a ceasefire.

As the retired general Giora Eiland remarked on Saturday, it always “starts with France, then moves to Germany, then Britain, and finally the US.”

Eiland wasn’t specific as regards the “it.” Ceasefire calls in military conflicts? The abandonment of Israel? General international perfidy?

But plainly, Macron’s spectacularly problematic summation of the nature of Israel’s war against Hamas marked the deepest blow to date to the array of support offered by allied world leaders for Israel’s declared campaign to fight in Gaza until Hamas no longer has the capacity to massacre and terrorize its citizens.

***

Thus far, Germany has continued to be supportive, as has the UK’s Conservative government — the more so, one suspects, because it sees the British far-left marching alongside anti-Israel extremists, some of them wearing Hamas headbands, in vast weekly demonstrations through central London.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters gather with placards and flags, including a banner urging “Resist! Return!” at a “National March For Palestine” in central London on November 11, 2023 (HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)

US President Joe Biden, while urging Israel to enable far greater humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s civilians, has also been adamantly rejecting the notion of a ceasefire — as in, a long-term end to the fighting.

If Macron’s critique — with its mindblowing disregard for the nature of a conflict being fought against a terrorist army embedded amidst the civilian population it governs —  proves to create a domino effect, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to defy the entire world, if necessary, and press on to victory.

But an international clock is ticking, and Israel will need more than bravado and bluster from its leadership to ensure that the vital goals of this war are achieved.

The IDF believes it is making serious headway in the campaign to eliminate Hamas as a military threat. But senior officers were quoted over the weekend as saying they were expecting to be fighting for a year. Meantime, other fronts are heating up, most notably but not only the northern border.

Netanyahu on Saturday night hailed his ongoing contacts with international leaders as ensuring that Israel maintains the room for maneuver it needs to continue its ground operations, but in almost the same breath had to acknowledge that Macron, at least, is no longer on board.

The faster the IDF tries to proceed in tackling Hamas, of course, the greater the risks to Gaza’s noncombatants and the greater the risks to the IDF. Underlining the danger, four highly experienced reservists were killed on Friday, blown up by a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft next to a mosque, in Beit Hanoun, an area the IDF would have regarded as relatively secure.

A photo showing members of the 551st Brigade’s 697th Battalion, four of whom were killed by a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft next to a mosque in the Beit Hanoun area on November 10, 2023 (Courtesy)

One tactical public diplomacy suggestion raised by Eiland on Saturday was that, rather than maintaining the “no to a ceasefire” negative approach, Israel’s leaders might want to consider saying “yes to a ceasefire, as soon as all the hostages are returned” — thus placing responsibility where it belongs, on Hamas, for the continuation of the conflict.

Composite of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas after the invasion of 3,000 terrorists into Israel on October 7, 2023, in which 1,200 people were slaughtered and some 240 taken captive. (Courtesy the Kidnapped From Israel campaign website/ Dede Bandaid, Nitzan Mintz & Tal Huber. Designed by Shira Gershoni & Yotam Kellner)

Netanyahu might also consider trying to avoid taking public positions that contradict the Biden administration when not absolutely necessary and when more nuanced language could be employed. True, the refusal of the Palestinian Authority and its president to condemn the Hamas massacres, and the PA’s ongoing payments to terrorists and their families, are just two of the factors that render it a profoundly problematic potential future administration for Gaza. One might add to that list the ease with which Hamas brushed aside the PA’s main Fatah faction when seizing control of the Strip in the first place in 2007.

But publicly dismissing the vision for Gaza’s future set out just days earlier by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken — including “Palestinian governance, Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority” — would appear to have been a comment primarily designed for domestic political purposes, and counterproductive to the key essential and immediate national war goals at a time when Israel is so reliant on US support as it deepens the Gaza ground incursion.

Report after report from among the troops inside Gaza and those poised to go in is of a unity of purpose, and an insistence on seeing the job through — i.e., not leaving Gaza until Hamas is defeated and the hostages are home. And the IDF indeed must defang Hamas to ensure it cannot repeat October 7’s atrocities; to deter our other emboldened enemies; and to enable Israelis in the south, the increasingly Hezbollah-battered north, and everywhere else in this country to once again go to sleep with the confidence that they won’t wake up to savage murderers slaughtering them in their homes.

That military recovery from October 7 is going to take a great deal of time and wisdom. Israel will need to maintain as much international support as possible, and even that may not be enough.

People abroad who care about us keep asking me two things: How is the war going, and will Israel recover? But it amounts to the same question. Israel cannot and will not recover, much less move to try to heal those deeper divisions that October 7 has barely pushed aside, unless or until its people are again safe and secure in their homes and their country.

Most Popular
read more: