Two Israeli plans to end the war by this spring now emerging

One from two former Chiefs of Staff, the other from Netanyahu. Plus what Israelis have been seeing and hearing this week ...

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We begin today, and wrap up the week, with the above very brief clip which was part of a larger story we’re not covering now. It’s an IDF-released video (you can see the IDF spokesman’s unit symbol at the top left) of the evacuation of a wounded soldier from Gaza (somewhere on the beach, obviously).

We post the video only because of something that has now become routine here, but is still worth noting. At 00:11 and 00:16 you can see, to the right side of the screen at the bottom, glimpses of a woman soldier, clearly stationed right at the front. She might be medical, she might be combat … no way to tell, as we can’t see her uniform much. But can hear her voice throughout …

This war has permanently changed Israel’s attitude to women on the front, and the fact that this clip was run without even mention of the fact that she’s in it speaks volumes.

In case you were busy this week and missed some postings, here’s what went out should you wish to go back and watch/read.

Sunday we covered the now heating up political battle to call for elections and unseat Netanyahu, plus Yair Sheleg’s very moderate (and thus more interesting) view of what should realistically happen with Gaza after the war here.

Monday’s video of Eitan Turgeman, badly wounded in battle, and his rapprochement with his pro-judicial-reform friend, with whom his relationship had completely broken down but has healed due to the war, is here.

Tuesday we ran the first part of our podcast with Ari Harow, formerly Benjamin Netanyahu’s close political advisor, here.

Wednesday, the podcast with Einat Wilf, one of the most articulate spokespeople for Zionism and an passionate advocate for a new honesty about the Palestinian war on Israel, is here.

Thursday we wrote about the army’s investigation of an officer’s command to a tank to fire at a house in Kibbutz Be’eri, and included a video with members on the kibbutz about the army’s failure that morning, here.

Israelis are facing an unfolding crisis, but also an important opportunity to rebuild. If you would like to share our conversation about what they are feeling and what is happening that the English press can’t cover, please subscribe today.

SUNDAY (2/18):  We’ll begin the week with some insights into the Israeli press over the weekend, and will have a podcast with Danny Brom, the head of Meitiv and one of Israel’s leading trauma and PTSD experts on how deeply Israel will—and will not—be facing trauma as a society. This podcast will be accessible to everyone.

MONDAY (2/19):   A new video is making its way around Israel, with a new look at the Nova music festival at which hundreds of young Israeli people were murdered. It’s a powerful video, with much footage that hasn’t been seen before. We’ve added subtitles for our readers.

TUESDAY (2/20):  The last of the reserve units that first went into Gaza are now being pulled out, and Israeli news carried a fascinating interview with some members of one of the very first to go in—and the last to come out. The soldiers have some powerful messages for Israeli society—some of which may surprises you.

WEDNESDAY (2/21):   We will run the second half of our interview with Ari Harow, author of the new book, My Brother’s Keeper, and once a close political advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu. Harow has great respect for Bibi as a leader and statesman, but some very surprising things to day about what he things Bibi SHOULD do now on the political front versus what he thinks Bibi WILL do. We’ll have an excerpt for everyone, and the full conversation with a transcript for paid subscribers.

THURSDAY (2/22): This weekend’s papers have already been delivered, and it’s clear that one story is front and center—the drafting of the ultra-Orthodox into the army. Even among the religious non-Haredi population, patience has run out. We’re going to present two articles, some politics ads and memes making their way across Israeli social media showing how attitudes have shifted and are continuing to move … even among the religious right.

FRIDAY (2/23):  Finally, we’ll close out the week with a podcast, available to everyone, with Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s Special Envoy for Combatting Anti-Semitism. It’s an enormous and daunting task, so Cotler-Wunsh outlines her strategy.

Earlier this week, YNet, one of Israel’s leading news sites, ran a report called “The two ways to end the war this spring.” There’s no way to know if things will play out this way, but the fact that Israelis are talking about wrapping up the Gaza war (the north is a separate wildcard) within the next few months (but not before) is worth knowing about.

The two ways to end the war this spring: Netanyahu's plan versus Gantz's and Eisenkot's outline

The report is that Netanyahu is conducting secret discussions with the Americans on the elements of a plan that would, by April-May, lead to the release of the kidnapped hostages, the end of the fighting and normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Because he is reticent to inflame his right flank and risk his coalition, notably Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, Bibi hopes to put off any public discussion of the “deal” for as long as possible. But Gadi Eizenkot and Benny Gantz, both in the tiny “war cabinet” and both former IDF Chiefs of Staff, are pushing their plan openly.

Turns out, there’s not much difference between the two camps, except for the timing of a massive IDF operation in Gaza, which despite US warnings, apparently both the US and Egypt understand is inevitable, at least for now. Everyone wants to distance themselves from it by telling Israel not to do it, but the word is that both Biden and al-Sisi understand that to wipe out Hamas even further, Israel has no alternative.

Gantz and Eizenkot are apparently willing to agree to a long pause in the fighting in order to secure the release of the hostages, but only if Israel can then pursue Hamas and destroy (or perhaps more realistically, further bludgeon) it. In other words, a deal at the price of losing momentum in the war, but not an agreement at any price.

Everyone gets something out of this. Hamas, unofficially, would have a chance to rearm and reposition, and perhaps try to smuggle key people out of Gaza. The Palestinians would have a reprieve from the fighting. Israel would get the hostages back, and would obviously use the pause in fighting to prepare for a massive attack if the deal does not go through, or for when the fighting continues after the deal completes. (If the cease fire holds, Israel would have more resources to assign to the north, until they were needed back in the south—all the IDF’s bravado notwithstanding, it’s become clear that the brass is not convinced that they can really fight a full scale war on both fronts.) And Joe Biden would be able to claim that, at least for now, he brought the fighting to a halt, a claim that would help him in this political season.

According to the YNet report, Israel would have to do the following, as well:

  1. Be much more flexible than Netanyahu has wished to be thus far to get a deal for the hostages

  2. Figure out a way to get humanitarian aid into Gaza not through UNRWA, so that it does not fall into Hamas’ hands but still mollifies international pressure (and saves the lives of Palestinians who are without food)

  3. Begin to figure out some form of rule in Gaza for the “day after”, perhaps apropos the article by Yair Sheleg that we ran earlier this week.

  4. Work with Egypt to prevent the continued “leakage” of refugees into Egypt and arms into Gaza.

  5. Prepare for normalization talks with Saudi Arabia, which would be part of the understanding. Netanyahu wants that for his legacy, as does Biden, Israel and the Saudis want it for military and economic cooperation, and the Palestinians will do whatever they can to prevent it.

The rumors are that Biden, who hung up on Bibi this week after saying “this call is now over”, would consider this significant payback for all his support of Israel since October 7th. It still leaves the North unaddressed, but that would obviously be pursued diplomatically and militarily at the same time.

If this were to work, sources are reported as saying, the war might end in the next few months, by mid to late spring. But there are a lot of “if’s” here. We should see, in the coming weeks, whether either of these plans gets traction, but either way—it seems that inside the corridors of power, there’s a target date for ending the war with Hamas—perhaps so we can set our sights on Hezbollah.

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Wishes for a Shabbat Shalom and prayers for better days ….

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Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside is for people who want to understand Israel with nuance, who believe that Israel is neither hopelessly flawed and illegitimate, nor beyond critique. If thoughtful analysis of Israel and its people interests you, welcome!