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With the cease-fire over, it’s back to war for Israel and Hamas

Thick smoke rises from buildings after an Israeli air strike on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Thick smoke rises from buildings after an Israeli air strike on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Abed Rahim Khatib, Reuters

War has resumed in Gaza following the end of the seven-day cease-fire between Hamas and the state of Israel, with each side claiming the other caused the collapse. Beyond the blame game, however, where do things go from here?


Hamas and the hostages

To date, Israel has grappled with two key objectives: destroying the Hamas threat and recovering all hostages. With the breakdown of negotiations and the revelation that many hostages are in the hands of groups other than Hamas, the second objective has become more difficult. Nonetheless, the White House is reportedly pressuring both sides to come back to the bargaining table.

Some US politicians would take a different approach. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the hostage impasse could be resolved by threatening Iran, the sponsor of Hamas. “I would go to Iran and say listen, you need to tell Hamas to let these hostages go,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re going to start paying a heavier price.”

Another pressure point could come if Israel achieves more of its military objectives, including the assassination of senior Hamas leaders. Israeli political analysts said the death of Yahya Sinwar, the presumed architect of the Oct. 7 attacks, would be considered a victory. “If the Israeli military succeeded in assassinating a major Hamas figure, I expect Netanyahu would seek to take credit,” said Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for Haaretz newspaper, and author of “Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu.”


Bibi in the balance

At stake is not just the fate of the remaining hostages and the Palestinians in Gaza, but the political future of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A whopping 80% of Israelis believe Netanyahu was responsible for security failures that led to the attacks of Oct. 7. Netanyahu is now facing even greater criticism after it emerged that his government dismissed intelligence reports about potential Hamas attacks a year ago.

Since the start of the war, Netanyahu’s polling numbers have declined steadily. In the most recent poll released on Friday by the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, 30% of respondents said that Bibi was the best fit for prime minister, while 49% preferred former Defense Minister Benny Gantz. On top of this, Netanyahu’s trial on corruption charges, which had been suspended, resumes today in the Jerusalem District Court. If convicted, Bibi could face several years in jail unless his political allies come to his aid, either by legalizing some of the “crimes” he is accused of or stopping his trial entirely.

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