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Israel's Gaza ground operation delayed over US preparations, possible hostage deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must wait for the Americans to complete military preparations in the region and for the Qataris to broker a deal for the liberation of hostages before a ground operation in Gaza.
Israeli army soldiers are positioned with their Merkava tanks near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel, Oct. 9, 2023

TEL AVIV — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a decision of epic proportions. Although he has recruited two highly experienced generals to share the burden of running the war with Hamas — former army chiefs Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot — only he alone is authorized to order an invasion of Gaza, where over 200 Israeli and foreign citizens are trapped in Hamas tunnels. 

Netanyahu knows that Israeli boots on the ground in the enclave greatly diminishes the prospects of rescuing the abducted children, men and women alive. On the other hand, any concessions Israel makes to secure the hostages’ release would diminish its prospects of trouncing the organization, as per the stated goals for the war. 

The decision is a choice between worse and worst. The man who has prided himself throughout his long premiership as being the ultimate guardian of Israel's security is known to be averse to such decisions. The irony of placing such a burden on a man prone to procrastination, chronic indecision and fear is not lost on the Israelis who know him.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have publicly pledged to crush Hamas. “It’s either us, or them,” Gallant said Thursday in a televised news conference. 

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