Sinwar's ruse is working while Israeli leaders repeat mistakes

Opinion: No one challenged the hostage deal among security officials who may be motivated more by the guilt they feel over their failures on October 7 than by the needs of the war

Yossi Yehoshua|
No Israeli citizen will remain unmoved by the return of captives from Gaza. It will be a moment of joy for the public and an immense relief for their families after more than a month of hell. For them, it will also be the beginning of a recovery period in which every minute is crucial. All these constitute a moral and ethical statement about Israel’s commitment to its citizens.
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However, despite the difficulty and shared concern, the role of the leadership and the media is to consider the hidden dangers of the move, as was presented on Tuesday to the government’s ministers.
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הרצי הלוי, בינימין נתניהו, רונן בר
הרצי הלוי, בינימין נתניהו, רונן בר
Ronen Bar, Benjamin Netanyahu, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi
(Photo: Yair Sagi, Yoav Dudkevitch, IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
On October 7, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar attacked Israel surprising its military that dismissed or misread the warning signs relayed by the soldiers on the ground, with commanders observing what they thought was the big picture, a mistake that would be investigated at a later date, and the government was busy with matters that today seem absurd.
But the government and the military leadership still insist on averting their eyes from reality. In the war cabinet and the IDF General Staff, there’s not even a single voice challenging the false conception that led us to the disaster from which we’re now trying to save ourselves.
The same government responsible for the biggest failure in the country's history is pushing the deal, which it says it has no choice but to accept. Even if people like IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, both highly commendable men of stature, stand fully behind the deal, it's not certain that one can separate their responsibility from their justified sense of guilt.
It’s clear that without unanimous support of security officials, there would have been no deal. War cabinet members say that the strong push for the deal came from these officials, not from some ministers associated with the deal.
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יחיא סינוואר
יחיא סינוואר
Yahya Sinwar
(Photo: AP)
It is worth asking the soldiers in Gaza to what extent Sinwar has deceived us since his release from prison in the 2011 prisoner release in exchange for Gilad Shalit who was held captive by Hamas for five years. The immense scale of the underground city he built in Gaza was unknown to any Israeli intelligence officials.
Before October 7, no one realized that Palestinian protests on the Gaza border were a distraction from the larger goal, to invade and control Israeli communities close to the border with the Strip.
Israel built a border wall it claimed would defend the border over and underground but Hamas trained in front of the watchful eyes of 18-year-old soldiers who relayed what they saw, just so their commanders could label them as hysterical women. We thought Qatari money flowing into Gaza and Palestinian workers being allowed into Israel indicated Hamas was becoming a political movement, while it prepared a decisive defeat for us. Somehow, it’s not enough for us to learn our lesson: everyone is playing the same tune.
One story encapsulates it all: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who was in office during the disaster, formed a team tasked with challenging ideas and strategies proposed by the military by posing tough questions and reverse thinking. But who headed the team? Maj. Gen. (res.) Tamir Heyman, former head of the military intelligence, who missed the warning about Hamas' attack in May 2021.
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הצהרת שר הביטחון יואב גלנט
הצהרת שר הביטחון יואב גלנט
Yoav Gallant
(Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Back then, officials also repeated the magical phrase: "Hamas is deterred." It’s impossible to distinguish between Heyman and the current chief of military intelligence's Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, so why were the tough questions not being asked?
In response to concern that the deal would completely halt the war, the public was told that there was a commitment to renew the fighting after four days. but again, the enemy is an irrational player, a ruthless murderer, and one who knows how to exploit Israeli society’s soft underbelly.
Just as Hamas identified Israel’s internal crisis over Netanyahu's judicial legislation, as an opportunity to attack, it uses the hostages to garner Israel's public support for the deal while it prepares for future actions. From its perspective, the cost is in the lives of Gazans is negligible.
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תיעוד פעילות צה"ל ברצועת עזה
תיעוד פעילות צה"ל ברצועת עזה
IDF forces in Gaza
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Somehow, the monster that sent terrorists to slaughter Israelis will receive legitimacy after releasing 50 captives out of over 200, helping him secure a complete cease-fire. Hamas will use the images of bodies buried under rubble in Gaza to enlist world support to stop Israel for continuing the war.
Even in these agreed-upon four days of pause in fighting, the IDF’s offensive momentum will be halted, allowing Sinwar to regroup and launch an improved offensive.
Meanwhile, the agreement on a temporary cessation of drone and UAV activity for several hours a day in Gaza poses a danger to IDF forces, and Israelis should doubt what former generals and other analysts say when they try to claim there are alternative solutions. The truth is simple: there are none.
Meanwhile, troops on the ground, at the peak of their offensive effort, will be forced to stop, commanders will have to avoid complacency and also deal with the mental difficulty of returning to full-fledged combat should the cease-fire end after four days. And what will the forces do if they are shot at? or if rockets are launched by other Gaza factions? Will there be a powerful response despite the danger to the return of the captives?
The deal focuses on Gaza but what of the northern front? Hezbollah continued to launch rockets and drones. In fact, this may be a time when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah exploits what he may perceive as a weakness or vulnerability.
The IDF is a powerful army, and the soldiers are doing excellent work and are ready to pay with their lives to achieve the war’s goals, including bringing Israeli captives back home. But under the current conditions, Israel may miss a historic opportunity to fundamentally change Gaza, both by paying with the lives of soldiers and by missing out on a better deal.
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