Look for Israel and Hamas to iron out a ceasefire agreement and hostage/prisoner swap before the March 10 beginning of Ramadan.
That was the consensus of editors of The Economist at a Feb. 1 webinar sponsored by the magazine.
Ed Carr, deputy editor; Josie Delap, Middle East editor; Gregg Carstrom, ME correspondent; and Anton LaGuardia, diplomatic editor, believe Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to gain “total victory” over Hamas is no longer achievable. That's because Hamas and freeing the hostages are irreconcilable.
The war with Hamas has become “one of diminishing returns” for Israel.
Though sixty to seventy percent of Hamas’ fighting battalions have been destroyed, the terror organization is still capable of firing missiles at Tel Aviv.
Those rockets are being fired from northern Gaza, an area the IDF purportedly cleared out at the beginning of the conflict.
Does Israel really want to launch a full-scale invasion of southern Gaza, where much of its 2M people are packed in like sardines, and further antagonize world opinion towards it?
Its military action has already killed 27K Gazans, displaced 85 percent of them and put Gaza on the verge of famine.
Israel’s military also has suffered from the war as it struggles to compensate for the loss of manpower called up for service.
Bye, bye Bibi
Delap spoke of the “weird dynamic” exhibited by Israel’s citizens.
She expected people to “rally around the flag” and support the government following the Oct. 7 invasion by Hamas, just as Americans did in the aftermath of 9/11 as George W. Bush's ratings skyrocketed.
Instead, Israelis rallied around the IDF at the expense of Netanyahu, who was held responsible for the Oct. 7 security lapse that led to the murder of 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Netanyahu, who was unpopular prior to Oct. 7 due to his ham-fisted attempt to slash the power of Israel’s Supreme Court, suffered a plunge in public confidence as only about 23 percent of Israelis support his leadership.
Bibi, a guy who always puts his personal survival ahead of the interests of the nation, is on borrowed time.
His base of support has shrunk to the most right-wing politicos who favor resettling Gaza with Israelis. Those hard-liners could sink Bibi’s fragile coalition government.
But if the ceasefire holds, and talks with Arab countries about the future of Gaza bear fruit, Israel will pencil in elections in the late summer or early fall to replace Netanyahu.
The Israel/Hamas war is at the point where something has got to give: either the fighting in Gaza stops or the entire region explodes into total chaos.