Ehud Barak believes that Israel has only a few weeks to eliminate Hamas, as public opinion – especially in the US – is rapidly shifting against the attacks on Gaza.
The rhetoric of U.S. officials has changed in recent days, and there have been constant calls for humanitarian pauses, noted Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister from 1992 to 2001, who has also served as defense minister and army chief.
Speaking to Politico, he expressed concern that support for Israel is now waning, which was expressed immediately after the murderous attack carried out by Hamas on October 7.
“You can see that the margins are narrowing. It is clear that we are headed for a clash with the Americans over the attack. America cannot dictate to Israel what to do. But we cannot ignore them,” said Ehud Barak.
“We have to come to terms with the American demands within the next two or three weeksmaybe even faster,” he pointed out.
It will take months – or even a year – to destroy Hamas, which is Benjamin Netanyahu’s main goal for this war, Barak estimated. But, he continued, Western support is waning because of civilian deaths in Gaza and fears that Israel’s campaign could trigger a much wider and even more destructive war in the region.
Western countries are also worried about their citizens who are among the 242 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, Ehud Barak also noted.
Israel is “losing” public opinion
“Listen to public opinion. And behind closed doors it’s a little more clear. We are losing public opinion in Europe and in a week or two we will begin to lose European governments. And after another week, the friction with the Americans will come to the surface”, he stressed.
Already Joe Biden has referred to the need for a “humanitarian pause” in the war. This week, Anthony Blinken was in Israel again and made the same reference to Benjamin Netanyahu, who has so far denied it. But Barack thinks that Israel will not be able to resist the demand of the American government and the Europeans for much longer.
In Ehud Barak’s view, Israel rightly set the bar so high in the war with Hamas. “The shock of the attack was enormous. It was an unprecedented event in our history and it was immediately clear that a harsh response had to be given. Not to take revenge, but to ensure that this cannot happen again,” he pointed out.
Even if the military campaign does not completely achieve the goal of completely eliminating Hamas, it will have done serious damage to the organization, he noted. Then it will be important not to allow Hamas to “resurrect”.
As for the day after Israel’s war with Hamas, he expressed his belief that a multinational Arab force, with some token participation from non-Arab countries, should be mobilized to take over the Gaza Strip. This power could remain in the enclave for 3-6 months as part of the transition to then be taken over by the Palestinian Authority.
Israel, Egypt and Jordan have closer anti-terror cooperation, the former prime minister noted. Also, he continued, Israel has signed agreements to normalize relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. A process from which, he estimated, the Arab countries will not want to withdraw.
“Arab leaders should also be able to tell their people that something is changing, that a new chapter is opening, in which there is an honest effort on all sides for calm. But they need to hear that Israel is able to think in terms of a different direction than it has been following in recent years.”
That, he warned, does not mean Israel should or can rush into reviving negotiations for a two-state solution.
A return to the era when he negotiated with Arafat may not be possible for a long time, he noted. history does not repeat itself. So I don’t think it can be repeated exactly,” he said. “It won’t happen quickly and it will take time. Trust has been lost on all sides and mistrust has only deepened,” he concluded.