As the four-day Israel-Hamas ceasefire enters its fifth day, the question remains: What happens when the hostage release comes to an end?
The tenuous truce between Israel and Hamas appeared to hold for a fifth day on Tuesday, an act of continued cooperation that could allow for additional aid to flow into Gaza and the release of more hostages, prisoners and detainees than initially expected.
A sixth day is, as of now, expected, and Israel has confirmed that the ceasefire will continue as long as Hamas continues to release hostages. During this time, aid trucks continue to roll into Gaza and Hamas is anticipated to make use of the ceasefire, and perhaps the aid, to regroup, rearm, resupply and prepare to continue to fight. But has Israel lost its momentum? Can it simply return to the course of action taken before the ceasefire now that the fighting has stopped?
There was always a question as to whether Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas in Gaza was realistic. As Hamas used Gazans as their shields, their mechanisms of evoking outrage beyond Gaza, Hamas remains entrenched in tunnels where its terrorists were protected from Israeli bombing and attacks while Gazans were exposed to Israel’s efforts. Now that Hamas has had the opportunity to regroup, has Israel made its efforts even more difficult, more impossible to achieve?
On the other hand, can Israel walk away and leave Hamas, the terrorists who perpetrated the rape, kidnapping and murder of Israelis on October 7th, to do so again and again?
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has expressed openness to an extension of the truce, but has also made clear that he intends for Israel to resume fighting after the pause ends in order to “eliminate” Hamas.
There is little doubt that Hamas’ kidnapping of hostages to be used as bargaining chips, whether for the release of terrorists in Israeli custody or to curb the Israeli retaliation that was certain to follow its horrific attack, has worked very well in its favor. If nothing else, this has served as a roadmap for future terrorist attacks, to not merely rape and brutally murder, but to kidnap so there are women and children to trade back later.
But eventually, and that eventuality may come sooner rather than later, there will be no living hostages to release. What then? Will the world tolerate another round of fighting with the bulk of harm falling on the Gazans behind whom Hamas hides? Will Israelis be able to muster the same level of zeal to follow through with its action to eliminate Hamas now that some hostages have been freed and there has been a hiatus in fighting? Is there any point to renewed fighting or is it doomed to fail the goal of self-defense from terrorism?
It’s one thing to fight in the aftermath of the horrific October 7th attack. It’s another to resume fighting after a ceasefire and release of at least some hostages. Can Israel go back to fighting? Should it? If not, what happened then, since Hamas has asserted without equivocation that it will persist in its terrorist attacks and, to the shock of all thinking human beings, has enjoyed the support of a great many young people in the perpetration of terrorism?
*Tuesday Talk rules apply, within reason.