Last week, the IDF released photos of its soldiers holding up an Israeli flag in what used to be the Gaza parliament building. Later, the building was destroyed. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports have been circulating over the weekend of a possible deal to release some hostages in exchange for a five-day ceasefire. Meir Ben-Shabbat assesses these developments:
It is crucial that Hamas’s governing facilities not only be seized but also completely destroyed after being cleared. This is the way to disabuse Hamas of its hope that Gaza will return to the days before October 7. This must be done not only through military activity. Israel must destroy the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings, so as to make it clear there will never be a return to the situation in which Palestinians can enter Israel. . . .
The immediate goal of Hamas is to have Israel stop fighting while creating a channel that allows the terrorist organization to maximize its gains from the hostages it holds. Hamas is pinning its hopes on Qatari mediation efforts, internal pressure in Israel on this issue, and international pressure on Israel regarding humanitarian issues. As expected, with the assistance of Qatar—whose main interest is to ensure Hamas’s survival—Hamas has put out the bait and started waving with their assets to achieve their goals.
Accordingly, if Israel wants to get more opportunities to secure the hostages while lowering the price of a deal and increasing its likelihood, it is crucial to continue with the military campaign while ratcheting up pressure on Qatar. . . . It is time to change the policy towards Qatar by demanding that the United States act against it not only with “carrots” but also with “sticks,” [by threatening] to reconsider its relationship with the sheikhdom.