Israel is losing the war in Gaza. After it has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and forced the displacement of millions, this may seem an odd claim.
But even those at the top of the Israeli military are starting to admit it. Israeli battle plans drawn up from before the invasion show the territory it holds currently is far less than expected.
The staunchly Israel-backing New York Times reports, “Israel’s limited progress in dismantling Hamas has raised doubts within the military’s high command about the near-term feasibility of achieving the country’s principal wartime objectives—eradicating Hamas and also liberating the Israeli hostages still in Gaza.”
Military leaders say the assault has “been stymied by a Hamas infrastructure that was more sophisticated than Israeli intelligence officers previously assessed”.
The commanders added, “The freedom of more than 100 Israeli hostages still in Gaza can be secured only through diplomatic rather than military means.”
The generals consider that “a drawn-out battle intended to fully dismantle Hamas would most likely cost the lives of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza”.
Despite months of Israeli aerial carpet bombing and ground attacks, the Palestinian resistance maintains its command and control capabilities. It continues to inflict losses on the Israelis.
Israel maintains that although it has not yet defeated Hamas, it is close to its proclaimed goal, claiming to have “eliminated” thousands of fighters.
Behind the propaganda are other trends. One indication is that urban counter-insurgency needs officers on the front line to take charge of building by building occupation.
Hamas has killed a very high proportion of them, including at least four full colonels. Wars are not about numbers–but numbers matter.
The US says Israel has killed between 6,500 and 8,000 Hamas fighters. All casualty figures need a little caution—and the Israeli military contradicts its own figures daily.
But their numbers suggest some 16 Hamas fighters have been killed for each Israel solider. Obviously the number of civilians murdered is far higher.
During the Vietnam War the US killed a similar proportion—16 North Vietnamese army or Vietcong soldiers for every one US soldier dead.
And again the number of civilian deaths was far higher. But the US lost in Vietnam.
The Golani Brigade, one of Israel’s oldest and most decorated units, was pulled from fighting in Gaza last month after 72 of its soldiers died in combat. Israeli forces claim military, moral and even racial superiority.
Yet they have proved to lack the capabilities to destroy Hamas in the way they boasted they would. This is not down to a lack of will or weapons.
Israel is losing its war due to the resistance in Palestine and the growth of solidarity across the world. For the Palestinians to win, that resistance needs to deepen and spread.
A war that Netanyahu needs—and only Palestinians can stop Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed Israel will not stop fighting in Gaza until “absolute victory”.
But many in Israel no longer believe him. Protests calling for a ceasefire, led by some of the hostages’ families, are growing. Protesters camped outside the homes of Netanyahu last week.
One group poured red liquid down his street, accusing him of having “the hostages’ blood on his hands”.
Part of the Israeli state thinks a ceasefire‑for‑hostages deal is a good idea. But another is adamant that the war against Hamas must continue to the last Palestinian.
Netanyahu is mostly interested in holding onto his premiership. He knows he will have to face corruption charges the moment he leaves office.
But he also wants to leave a legacy that includes the extension of the apartheid at the heart of the Israeli state.
There were 700,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before 7 October. Since then, the rate of Palestinian dispossession has massively accelerated.
Opposition to Netanyahu may grow, but it is trapped in a settler colonial view that sees the “defence” of Israel against Palestinians as central.
In this killing Gazans is acceptable. Driving them from their homes is acceptable. But doing it badly is not acceptable if it costs too many Israeli lives.
Opposition in Israel may weaken Netanyahu. To stop him means looking to the Palestinians, not the Israelis.
Israeli polls show growing discontent
A new poll for Tel Aviv University’s Peace Index shows a small shift in Israeli opinion.
People were asked what they thought the Israeli government’s most important war objective should be. Some 51 percent answered “returning the hostages from Gaza in any way possible”–up from 33 percent in November.
Meanwhile, 43 percent said the government should aim to destroy Hamas in Gaza in any way possible–down from 59 percent two months prior.
There is growing discontent with the government and with the fact Israel is not winning.
But importantly, when asked about the level of force used by the IDF, 46 percent said it was “appropriate” while 37 percent said “too little” force had been used in Gaza.