At this moment, we have the privilege of gaining insights from Mr. DAV Zakim, a former Under Secretary of Defense in George W. Bush’s Administration, currently serving as a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is live on this broadcast, providing a perspective on the ongoing humanitarian pause.
The present humanitarian pause, subject to extensions every 24 hours, teeters on the brink of uncertainty. The critical question looming is how long the Netanyahu Administration will persist with this military pause, exchanging hostages for prisoners. The likelihood is that they will continue as long as viable, driven by the imperative to retrieve hostages. With approximately 170 hostages in the hands of Hamas, the extension of the truce serves a dual purpose. It facilitates the return of hostages and allows increased humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Being a former Under Secretary of Defense in George W. Bush’s Administration, Mr. Zakim brings valuable insights into the dynamics of power within the American Administration. Despite the United States advising Israel against a ground offensive in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, the expectation arises that Israel may renew its military offensive post the ongoing pause. The pivotal question emerges: to what extent would the U.S. back Israel in such an offensive?
Mr. Zakim anticipates that the United States will urge Israel to minimize casualties and collateral damage. While the accuracy of the 15,000 casualty figure from Hamas sources is debatable, the emphasis remains on safeguarding innocent lives. The U.S. influence may encourage Israel to target attacks more precisely, considering the heightened concentration of Gazans in the South. Additionally, reports suggest the possibility of targeting Hamas leadership, such as Sinir, the alleged mastermind behind the attacks.
The course of action depends on various factors, including the truce’s continuation or breach. If the truce holds, more hostages will be released, and humanitarian aid will flow. However, if broken, it may trigger Israeli retaliation. Secretary Blinken’s ongoing diplomatic efforts in West Asia may offer leverage, given his proximity to President Biden. While Israel perceives this as an existential threat, Blinken’s counsel could play a role in influencing decisions.
In summary, the evolving situation hinges on multiple variables, from hostage releases to potential military offensives, with diplomatic efforts contributing to the complex equation.