“The objective is to demolish Gaza”: The rationale behind Israel’s rejection of a Hamas ceasefire

There are now concerns that the Gaza conflict may continue as a result of Israel’s rejection of a ceasefire and start of an operation in Rafah.


The announcement on Monday by Hamas that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt and Qatar appears to have taken Israel by surprise. However, the Israeli government swiftly clarified that it would not accept the proposal, and to further accentuate the point, its military forces seized control of the Palestinian side of Egypt’s border with Gaza at Rafah. This statement, according to many analysts, means that there will not be a permanent ceasefire and that the devastating war on Gaza will continue.

Mairav Zonszein, a senior analyst on Israel-Palestine at the International Crisis Group (ICG), stated that “Israel wants to reserve the right to continue operations in Gaza.”

She continued by saying that until Israel ends the war permanently, a settlement seemed unattainable.

She said to Al Jazeera, “You will [eventually] need a ceasefire if you enter into a ceasefire deal.”

The stated goals of Israel’s bombardment of Rafah are to break up Hamas battalions and take over the Gaza-Egyptian crossing, which Israel claims Hamas uses to transport weapons into the confined territory. However, humanitarian organizations have not wasted any time in pointing out that the over a million Palestinians who live in Rafah—the majority of whom are displaced—will suffer greatly if the border is closed.

Furthermore, it puts at risk the possibility of an agreement between Israel and Hamas, which the United States, Egypt, and Qatar have been trying to mediate for days, with a significant role played by William Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The conditions of the Hamas truce, according to Israel, were different from other offers it had seen. However, pundits surmise that the larger problem lies in Israel’s unwillingness to consent to an ongoing cessation of hostilities, even in the event that Hamas frees Israeli hostages.

“It has been evident over the past few days that Israel was not genuinely engaging in good faith negotiations. Israel was prepared to blow up any agreement that Hamas made as soon as they agreed by starting their attack on Rafah, according to Omar Rahman, an Israel-Palestine analyst with the Middle East Council for Global Affairs, a Doha, Qatar-based think tank.

“Total destruction of Gaza is the aim,” he stated to Al Jazeera.


Selling a triumph?

For Palestinians escaping Israeli attacks in the northern and center areas of the enclave, Rafah has emerged as their last safe haven. Although it hasn’t completely avoided attack, up until Monday, the Israeli army hadn’t dispatched ground soldiers to seize control of the area.

But with Hamas still in operation and scores of Israeli prisoners being detained, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched his invasion, but it is unclear how far his forces would advance into Rafah. He has already undertaken ground operations across the remainder of Gaza.

Netanyahu is faced with a dilemma since, despite his promises of an Israeli popular victory over Hamas, a majority of Jewish Israelis favor an invasion of Rafah, as per a March survey conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute. However, the US has made it clear that it will not back a full-scale invasion, even though it has provided Israel with unwavering support throughout the Gaza War.

Hugh Lovatt, an Israel-Palestine specialist with the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR), speculated that Israel’s war cabinet may have been attempting to appease the public by continuing with the Rafah offensive and originally refusing a ceasefire.

“A proposal that is perceived by the Israeli public as being on Hamas’s terms may be too challenging for the Israeli government to approve,” he told Al Jazeera. Israel might be perceived as declaring, “We have taken over the corridor, we have uprooted terrorist infrastructure, and now we can have a ceasefire,” by entering Rafah.

Clinging to authority

According to experts, Netanyahu’s political future also depends on keeping up the Gaza War, as reported by Al Jazeera. They clarified that early elections and his ouster from office might result from the disintegration of his far-right alliance, which would force a lasting truce.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right minister of national security, and Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, have allegedly both vowed to quit and bring down Netanyahu’s government if Israel accepts a truce and captivity arrangement.


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