Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at odds with his own military after refusing to sign off on plans for a ground operation in Gaza, the New York Times said on Thursday. He reportedly wants his entire war cabinet to back an invasion.
The Israeli leadership has vowed to “obliterate” the Palestinian militant group Hamas in retaliation for its attack on October 7, but there is no agreement among top officials on how, when and even whether to go all in, the newspaper said, citing multiple sources.
The country mobilized some 360,000 reservists after the Hamas attack and has been bombarding Gaza for weeks. There were also some small-scale incursions into the blockaded Palestinian territory.
The military could move as soon as Friday, according to the newspaper.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) leadership has already finalized an invasion plan, but Netanyahu declined to give it the go-ahead, two sources told the NYT.
Military officials were also banned from bringing recording equipment into cabinet meetings, the newspaper was told.
The move was interpreted by sources as an attempt to “limit the amount of evidence that could be presented to a national inquiry after the war.”
Netanyahu has long been a divisive figure in Israel, with critics accusing him of corruption and authoritarianism. The nation has had multiple parliamentary elections since 2019, as well as mass protests against a controversial judicial reform, which Natanyahu pushed forward after returning to power last year.
The Hamas attack, which was the worst breach of Israeli national security in five decades, and the government’s handling of the hostage situation have added to the political pressure on the prime minister.
Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old hostage who was released by Hamas this week, indirectly criticized the Israeli government in an interview on Tuesday, saying it had been “no help at all” when the militants attacked her settlement.
Last week, Natanyahu’s office had to defend itself from accusations that it had “planted” a supporter at a meeting with families of Hamas captives.
- One of the factors causing Israel to wait before beginning a ground invasion is hope that Qatar-mediated talks aimed at securing the release of some hostages may be successful, the NYT suggested.
Some members of the Israeli government favor “a less ambitious plan involving several more limited incursions that target one small part of the enclave at a time.”
- There are concerns that a full-scale invasion may result in costly urban warfare and trigger an escalation with other regional players, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.