Eisenkot advocates pause in fighting to get hostages out – reports

War cabinet member said to tell MKs military pressure in Rafah is enabling a window of opportunity, and Israel can achieve its goals once the hostages are released

Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks during a conference at Reichman University in Herzliya, May 17, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks during a conference at Reichman University in Herzliya, May 17, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

MK Gadi Eisenkot, a war cabinet observer, privately called on Monday for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza to facilitate a hostage release, according to reports in Hebrew media. He was also said to have rejected outright the possibility of placing Gaza under the civil control of the Israeli military.

Eisenkot, speaking at a closed-door meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reportedly emphasized he did not want his comments leaked, but said that he was taking that possibility into account.

The minister without portfolio, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, reportedly argued that a short-term pause in fighting could be advantageous, noting that the window of opportunity for a hostage deal may be narrow and dependent upon military pressure in Rafah.

“Just as we stopped for a truce the first time, we can pause the war and return to fighting in order to achieve our war goals,” Eisenkot reportedly told the committee, in remarks reported by Channel 12.

Israel struck a deal with Hamas in November to temporarily cease fighting and release hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for the release of 105 civilian hostages over the course of a week.

“The right thing in Gaza is to reach the end of the fighting in Rafah and, at the same time, to move forward on the path to a hostage deal, in the framework of a ceasefire for 42 days, or more than that,” Eisenkot was quoted in Hebrew media as having said.

A Palestinian man walks past a destroyed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 26, 2024 (Eyad BABA / AFP)

“It’s not just soldiers but also civilians that were abandoned,” he reportedly said of the hostages, “and Israel has an obligation to return them.”

Eisenkot, who has lost a son and a nephew in the war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza, reportedly expressed pessimism about the prospects of regional calm in the near future, saying, “We will have to conduct this war for many more years.”

Looking ahead, Eisenkot made a point of rejecting outright the idea of an Israeli military government in Gaza, according to reports.

Right-wing lawmakers, including members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition, have repeatedly called for long-term IDF control of the Strip, while Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently called on Netanyahu to explicitly reject it as a possibility.

Eisenkot reportedly told MKs that there is a broad consensus in the war cabinet against military control of Gaza, sentiments also expressed by National Security Council Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi on Monday, who said at a security conference that “there is not one person in the cabinet who wants Israeli military rule in the Strip.”

Rejects calls to occupy southern Lebanon

Eisenkot also rejected the idea — advocated by far-right members of the government — of Israel taking security control of parts of Lebanon, saying there was a broad consensus in the war cabinet against that scenario as well.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the Israel-Lebanon border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

Addressing the fighting in the north, Eisenkot reportedly called for seeking a diplomatic resolution along the lines of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, passed in 2006 to set out the terms for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah that ended a 34-day war.

The resolution, never fully implemented, called for replacing Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon with a UN peacekeeping force, and for the terror group to withdraw its forces north of the Litani River, the same demand Israel has made in the months since October 8, when Hezbollah started its attacks on northern Israel.

Eisenkot said that Resolution 1701 was not sufficient to guarantee Israeli security, noting the presence of about 200 Shiite villages that could be used as staging grounds for attack.

The minister reportedly called for a “strong and skilled international security force” capable of repelling Hezbollah, noting that “if the diplomatic effort fails — we must take into account the option of a proactive Israeli military action in the north.”

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