Israel is facing growing pressure to act swiftly against Hamas, with former Israeli leader Ehud Barak warning that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Western support for Israel’s actions in Gaza is dwindling, and experts believe the situation is becoming increasingly urgent.
Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister and Chief of the Israel Defence Forces, expressed concern over the changing public opinion, especially in the United States, which has been a critical source of international support for Israel.
Barak suggested that a multinational Arab force might be needed to take control of Gaza after the military campaign, paving the way for the return of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority to replace Hamas. However, he noted that achieving a diplomatic solution for a Palestinian state remains a distant goal.
The former Israeli leader pointed out that the rhetoric from US officials has shifted in recent days, with increased calls for a humanitarian pause in the conflict. While there was an initial outpouring of sympathy for Israel after the deadly terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7, the support is waning.
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He told POLITICO: “You can see the window is closing. It’s clear we are heading towards friction with the Americans about the offensive. America cannot dictate to Israel what to do. But we cannot ignore them.
“We will have to come to terms with the American demands within the next two or three weeks, probably less.”
At the same time, Israeli military officials have reported that the ground campaign in Gaza has entered a more dangerous phase, with Israeli troops advancing deeper into Gaza City than in previous operations in 2009 and 2014.
Barak emphasised that eliminating Hamas, the primary goal of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his war cabinet, could take several months, even a year. However, Western support is diminishing due to civilian casualties in Gaza and concerns that Israel’s actions could trigger a wider and more catastrophic regional conflict.
Barak also highlighted the concerns of Western nations about their citizens among the 242 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
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He said: “Listen to the public tone — and behind doors it is a little bit more explicit. We are losing public opinion in Europe and in a week or two we’ll start to lose governments in Europe. And after another week the friction with the Americans will emerge to the surface.”
Last week, President Joe Biden called for a “humanitarian pause” in the Israeli campaign. This week, during his fourth visit to Israel since October 7, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed the case once more. Blinken urged Netanyahu and the Israeli war cabinet to prioritise protecting civilians in Gaza and minimising civilian casualties.
On Tuesday, the UK and Japan also joined forces in urging Israel to implement a “humanitarian pause” to the conflict.
The Foreign and Defence Ministers of Japan and the UK, Yoko Kamikawa, James Cleverly, Minoru Kihara, and Grant Shapps, issued this joint statement following their meeting in Tokyo before the G7 Foreign Ministers’ summit. The four ministers reiterated their “unequivocal condemnation” of the terrorist attacks by Hamas a month ago and called for the “immediate release of all hostages” held, recognising Israel’s “right to self-defence” in accordance with international law. They hope for a “humanitarian pause” that would enable the delivery of food, medicine, water, electricity, and fuel to the residents of the Gaza Strip “as soon as possible”.
While Netanyahu has rejected these efforts so far, Barak expressed doubt about the Israeli war cabinet’s ability to withstand mounting pressure from the Biden administration and European governments for an extended period.
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