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Mairav Zonzsein is an Israeli-American commentator and a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Israel’s war in Gaza is already the longest war Israel has waged since its founding in 1948, and despite diplomatic efforts to get Israel and Hamas to agree to some form of ceasefire, no end appears to be in sight. With nearly 30,000 Palestinians killed, more than double that number injured and much of the Strip’s housing destroyed, Israel has turned Gaza into a wasteland. Yet Israel still lacks the decisive military achievements against Hamas its political leaders would need to declare a victory, and they insist the war is far from over. The world now seems to be waiting in trepidation to see if Israel pushes ground troops into Rafah – placing in harm’s way over one million displaced Palestinians.

Despite all the warnings that such a move would take the humanitarian catastrophe facing Palestinians in Gaza to an even more unbearable level and threaten to destabilize the whole region, Israel has indicated that if its hostages aren’t released, Rafah will soon be invaded. Outside actors hope that another hostage deal/ceasefire can be reached in time to provide a reprieve. But Israel insists it must enter Rafah because it needs to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions there, destroy infrastructure, potentially free hostages and put itself in a better position to have significant influence over the Gaza-Egypt border.

Israel, for its part, is waiting, desperately, to achieve a strategic breakthrough – either with the collapse of Hamas, the capturing or killing of its top leaders in Gaza, or the return of hostages alive. By keeping the threat of an invasion in Rafah hovering, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is able to appear tough on Hamas, tough against the U.S. (which has counselled restraint) and tough for his base at home, while buying time without making any progress. At the same time, he is not just affronting the world and risking undermining Israel’s fragile and critical relations with its neighbours Egypt and Jordan, with which it has longstanding peace treaties; he also appears to be in an increasingly open conflict with his own military, which is consistently showing a lack of confidence in his leadership. This is owing to Mr. Netanyahu’s total rejection of any political vision that offers a way out of endless war.

Last week, the research division of the IDF military intelligence produced a document for the political echelon warning that even if Hamas’s military forces are dismantled, it will remain intact as a guerrilla group, and will continue to garner popular support. Effectively, the brains of the military told Mr. Netanyahu that his war goal of defeating Hamas and reaching what he has described as “total victory” is unachievable. A few weeks ago, former IDF chief of staff and member of the war cabinet Gadi Eisenkot essentially said the same thing in a TV interview, warning that Mr. Netanyahu is deceiving the public and that a deal – not military force – is the only way to get the hostages home safely. Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, has also warned several times that the war cannot be effective without a “day-after” plan. This kind of open dissent against the political echelon by the army is extraordinary.

There is some dispute in Israel about how much Hamas has been damaged. Notwithstanding concerns by IDF intelligence and other security experts, some commentators and military analysts insist Hamas is on the verge of collapse and that invading Rafah is necessary to finish the job. With Hamas still conducting negotiations via Qatar and Egypt on a hostage deal/ceasefire, and able to keep up attacks on IDF soldiers and occasional rocket fire into Israel, this seems doubtful. But even if we assume that Hamas’s military force can be largely neutralized once Israel completes its assault on Rafah, even if Hamas eventually cedes power of the Strip, what then? No one in Israel’s halls of power has an answer to that question, except for the far-right in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, which insists Gaza should be depopulated and Israeli settlements rebuilt.

Israelis, the majority of whom want to see Mr. Netanyahu gone, nevertheless continue to support the war, animated by the desire to defeat Hamas, and undeterred by the destruction of Gaza and the tens of thousands of deaths. The question is what, if anything, could tip public opinion in a different direction. One possibility is that it begins with the mothers of the Israeli soldiers being killed – and the many more injured and experiencing post-traumatic stress that we don’t hear much about. Perhaps they will be the ones who start confronting Israel’s leaders with the essential question: why should they continue sending their kids to die for a government that offers no vision except for endless war, endless occupation and endless violence?

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