Gaza war: Liberation can only succeed without weapons: finally bring the hostages home

Within a few hours on Monday evening, two reports made the rounds in Israel.

Gaza war: Liberation can only succeed without weapons: finally bring the hostages home

Within a few hours on Monday evening, two reports made the rounds in Israel. Two reports that reflect the terrible rollercoaster of hope and despair that the country's citizens have been experiencing non-stop for more than three months. "Israel offers Hamas a ceasefire of up to two months in return for the release of all hostages."

"21 Israeli army soldiers die in Hamas attack in southern Gaza Strip."

But the reports make something else clear: After 109 days of war, it can no longer be denied that the two main war goals stated by the Israeli government - freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas - contradict each other.

A growing number of Israelis are becoming painfully aware of this these days. Last weekend, thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Haifa and elsewhere demanding an end to the war and a deal to free the hostages. More than ever since the beginning of the war.

“The mood in the country is changing,” says Yehuda Shaul, co-director of the think tank Ofek in Jerusalem and co-founder of the anti-occupation veterans organization B’Tselem. "It's not a majority yet, but more and more Israelis understand: We won't be able to free the remaining hostages using military means. And: It won't be possible to eliminate Hamas," said Shaul in an interview with Stern. "What we can achieve militarily in Gaza is very limited."

A few days ago, Gadi Eisenkot, minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet and former chief of general staff of the Israeli army, made similar comments in a TV interview.

But Netanyahu and his right-wing government partners don't want to hear about it. They continue to vow the country to a long war - at least a year, the prime minister said again last week - but refuse to answer the question of what will happen afterwards.

The horrendous humanitarian situation of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip seems as irrelevant to them as the plight of their own citizens in the hands of Hamas. Netanyahu's government partner Itamar Ben-Gvir from the right-wing Jewish Force party is openly threatening to collapse the coalition if the government agrees to end the war in the Gaza Strip. The initiative for a temporary ceasefire of "up to two months" as a concession for the release of the hostages seems like a feint in light of such statements.

"This government doesn't care about the hostages because they and their families are not part of its constituency," says army veteran and current peace activist Shaul.

The federal government should face this situation more clearly than before. “We won’t give up, we won’t let up in our work until all of Hamas’ hostages are back home,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on the online platform X, formerly Twitter, on the 100th day of the war. On the way to this goal, blanket expressions of solidarity alone are no more helpful than the apparently planned delivery of German tank ammunition to Israel's army - both of which are correct in principle, of course, especially with a view to German history.

What would help would be an immediate, mutual and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, as the starting signal for a process towards a diplomatic solution. Only such an approach offers at least the chance of sustainable security for Israel and Palestinians. According to the current Israeli government, it will not exist for the time being.

After more than 100 days of war, it is uncertain what Israel can achieve with further military force in the Gaza Strip. One thing is clear: a continuation of the war would endanger the lives of the remaining hostages. And that of many other Palestinian civilians. Hamas is playing a cynical game with the lives of the prisoners, and friendly fire from its own army is therefore increasingly becoming a deadly threat to the abductees.

Together with the USA, Germany could do more than others to bring about a change in thinking in Jerusalem. If the security of Israel's citizens is part of Germany's reason of state, then this should apply most of all to those of them who have been held hostage by Hamas for 109 days.