What’s delaying Israel’s invasion of Gaza?

Yasmine Osama Farag , Monday 23 Oct 2023

After 17 days of relentless airstrikes, Israel has yet to begin its invasion of the Gaza Strip, raising questions about whether US pressure or internal disagreements between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli military could be behind the delay.

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. AP


The New York Times, citing several US officials, reported on Sunday that the Biden administration advised Israel to delay their ground invasion to buy time to negotiate a release of captives and allow more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in the besieged strip.

American officials also want more time to prepare for retaliation against US interests in the region from Iran-backed groups, which officials said are likely to intensify once Israel invades Gaza.

The ground invasion has been repeatedly delayed, the New York Times reported citing four senior Israeli defence officials, who added that they did not know the reason for the postponement. Two of the officials said it was possibly related to the negotiations.

The repeated delays also reflect a growing tension between Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who supports a broad military operation that would also target Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Netanyahu has opposed such an operation, and American officials have also privately expressed concern to Israeli leaders about opening up a second front.

On Monday, Israeli Ynet newspaper talked about “a crisis of confidence” in Israel between Netanyahu and the Israeli army, 17 days after Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on 7 October.

“The tense relationship between Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant makes it very difficult to work... Tensions escalated after news leaked that Netanyahu used his veto power against a military operation in the north.”

"Today the government is facing difficulty in reaching decisions on major issues," Ynet said, adding that at least three ministers are considering resigning to force Netanyahu to take responsibility for the security failure after the Hamas attack.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Haaretz outlet said that on the political level, Israel is maintaining ambiguity about its land incursion, as no one in Tel Aviv wants to be seen bowing to US pressure.

It added that reports from anonymous sources about such pressure deflect attention away from the fact that in Israel, too, not everyone is convinced that an immediate land invasion is appropriate.

In the last few days, diplomatic sources have made it clear that the hostage issue, as well as the question of the army’s readiness, has influenced decision-making, according to Haaretz.

It also reported that many sources in Israel have expressed concern that the cost of a ground incursion will exceed any benefits. Instead, they are urging more airstrikes with the aim of exhausting Hamas.

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