Biden’s hope for alternatives fade as Israel appears to signal Gaza invasion | THE GUARDIAN

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Avi Melamed’s insights about “Biden’s hope for alternatives fade as Israel appears to signal Gaza invasion” were quoted in this article by Julian Borger and Ruth Michaelson in Jerusalem for The Guardian | source article here.

Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official, said any such non-violent outcome was far-fetched. “I would very much doubt whether we’d see something like that, in terms of the world doing that and in terms of Hamas complying,” Melamed said, adding that it would be politically impossible for the Netanyahu government. “I find it very difficult to see how any Israeli government, particularly one marketing itself as a hawkish, tough government, will be able to confront the rage, the anger and criticisms of Israeli public opinion.”

Joe Biden has said that the US and Israeli militaries are discussing alternatives to the full invasion of Gaza widely expected since the Hamas attack on 7 October.

On the flight back to Washington after a day of talks in Israel, Biden was asked about the prospect of a large-scale ground assault by the 300,000-strong Israeli force arrayed along the border.

“We had a long talk about that and what alternatives there are. Our military is talking with their military about what the alternatives are,” the president replied but he declined to give details.

Biden’s comments came a day after a spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces, Lt Col Richard Hecht, cast doubt for the first time on whether a ground invasion was an inevitability.

“We are preparing for the next stages of war,” Hecht told reporters. “We haven’t said what it will be. Everyone is talking about a ground offensive but maybe it will be something different.”

Since Hamas insurgents broke through the border wire around Gaza and massacred about 1,400 Israelis, most civilians, while taking more than 200 people hostage, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has vowed to “demolish Hamas”. Phalanxes of tanks lined up in southern Israel, apparently poised to strike.

However, the expected assault was put on hold while the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, toured the region, and Israel received a succession of visitors sent by Washington, including the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, the head of Central Command, Gen Michael Kurilla, and ultimately Biden himself.

They all brought the same message: to avoid the mistakes the US had made after the 9/11 attacks 22 years ago, rushing in militarily to assuage national rage without thinking of the long-term consequences.

In particular, US officials have warned that a mass ground assault could bring reprisals from Hezbollah from the north and the risk of a two-front war – there are already near daily exchanges of fire across the Lebanese border. They say it would create a humanitarian catastrophe for which Israel would be held responsible, and there would be no guarantee it would succeed in destroying Hamas. It could instead create a new generation of Palestinian recruits both in Gaza and the West Bank.

However, leaving Hamas in place in Gaza is not an option either for a government that failed to stop an attack which caused the biggest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust.

“Whatever will be the outcome in Gaza is on the head of Hamas, they should be eliminated [from the] Earth,” the former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz said. “We should run after them as long as it takes. Each one of them is sentenced to death.”

One faint hope nurtured by US diplomats is that with unanimous, unyielding pressure from the Arab world, Hamas could be forced to leave Gaza for an agreed haven, just as the Palestine Liberation Organisation left Lebanon for Tunisia in 1982.

“That’s what Biden is talking about. That’s what he wanted to talk about in Amman today,” said Yossi Melman, an Israeli writer, journalist and intelligence expert, referring to a planned summit between Biden and Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority leaders in the Jordanian capital. “But Arab leaders, due to their political interest, decided not to attend the conference.”

The Amman meeting was cancelled after the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians in a blast at al-Ahli Arab hospital, in Gaza City.

Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official, said any such non-violent outcome was far-fetched. “I would very much doubt whether we’d see something like that, in terms of the world doing that and in terms of Hamas complying,” Melamed said, adding that it would be politically impossible for the Netanyahu government. “I find it very difficult to see how any Israeli government, particularly one marketing itself as a hawkish, tough government, will be able to confront the rage, the anger and criticisms of Israeli public opinion.”

Eyal Hulata, a former Israeli national security adviser, pointed out that a previous Israeli military assault on Hamas in Gaza – the 2021 Guardian of the Walls operation – relied on air power. “Israel conducted the entire operation without a ground manoeuvre into Gaza and were able to inflict damage on a lot of Hamas infrastructure. But of course, there is a limit to what you can do only from the air.”

He said there was a range of ground offensive operations short of all-out invasion, including special forces operations and raids aimed at locating and possibly rescuing hostages.

Addressing troops on the Gaza border on Thursday, Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, made clear that some form of ground operation was imminent. “You see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from inside. The command will come,” Gallant’s office quoted him as saying, predicting there would be “significant ground operations”.

Several security commentators in the Israeli press said that whatever operational decision was taken in the coming days and weeks, it would no longer be Israel’s decision alone since Biden was invited to take part personally in Israel’s war cabinet deliberations during his visit on Wednesday.

“The rules of the game that have been established over the years are more or less as follows: Israel and the US are allies. They maintain military cooperation and political coordination. However, Israel does not share its military plans with the US,” Nahum Barnea wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

“Netanyahu has acted differently. He brought the Americans into the decision-making process in the security cabinet and the emergency cabinet. That means that Biden will be held responsible for anything that Israel does in Gaza. That obliges him and obliges us.”

Avi Melamed’s insights about “Israel set on destroying Hamas despite risks to hostages?” were quoted in this article by Anjana Sankar for The National News | UAE

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamedhttps://insidethemiddle-east.com
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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