Israel Vowed to Continue Its Invasion After the Truce. Could That Change?


An extended cease-fire is also expected to create more opportunities for foreign powers — particularly the United States — to pressure Israel to scale back its military goals. The Israeli response to the Oct. 7 attack has killed more than 12,000 Gazans, according to health officials there, leading to rising alarm among Israel’s allies about the conduct of Israel’s campaign.

President Biden, speaking on Friday from Nantucket, Mass., said “the chances are real” that the pause could open the door to a longer cease-fire.

But even if the U.S. does push Israel to end or moderate its military campaign, Israel’s leaders may nevertheless ignore the criticism and plow ahead with the invasion.

To end the war now would leave Hamas still in charge of most of Gaza. It would also bring forward the post-war recriminations — including a state inquiry into who was to blame for the Oct. 7 attack — that could prove damaging to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister; the military chief of staff, Herzi Halevi; and other security chiefs.

By proceeding with an invasion, even if it delays further hostage releases and heightens international criticism of Israel, Israeli leaders could delay that push for accountability and potentially salvage some of their domestic reputation, particularly if they end up ousting Hamas.

It would also delay a difficult conversation about who should run the parts of Gaza that Israel has already captured — a dilemma that no Israeli leader has conclusively addressed in public.

For Israeli leaders, the war is “all about eradicating and destroying Hamas,” said Mr. Pinkas. “So anything less than that is not a win. If Hamas maintains and retains residual political power, then Hamas can claim they won.”

After the initial elation of the hostage releases wears off, the Israeli public may still overwhelmingly back resuming the invasion, even if it prevents the immediate liberation of more Israeli captives.

As more hostages are released, Israelis will hear more accounts of how they were treated during their abduction and captivity — accounts that could well amplify calls for Hamas’s destruction, Dr. Efron said.

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