|The Telegraph publishes an interview with Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotoveley, about her thoughts on Britain’s relationship with Israel, Israel’s current tactics and rising antisemitism in the UK.
The Economist publishes a piece arguing against a ceasefire, saying: “Around the world the cry is going up for a ceasefire or for Israel to abandon its ground invasion. Hearing some Israeli politicians call for vengeance, including the discredited prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, many people conclude that Israel’s actions are disproportionate and immoral. Many of those arguing this believe in the need for a Jewish state, but fear for a Jewish state that seems to value Palestinian lives so cheaply. They worry that the slender hopes for peace in this age-old conflict will be buried under Gaza’s rubble. Those are powerful arguments, but they lead to the wrong conclusion. Israel is inflicting terrible civilian casualties. It must minimise them and be seen to do so. Palestinians are lacking essential humanitarian supplies. Israel must let a lot more aid pass into Gaza. However, even if Israel chooses to honour these responsibilities, the only path to peace lies in dramatically reducing Hamas’s capacity to use Gaza as a source of supplies and a base for its army. Tragically, that requires war.” The Telegraph also publishes a piece against calls for a ceasefire, saying “Israel only has to lose once to be annihilated – a ceasefire is out of the question”.
The Economist also publishes on how views on Israel are misleadingly negative online, saying: “Israel has fared far worse online than in surveys of overall public opinion. A poll of Americans by YouGov found three backers of Israel for every Palestinian supporter on October 20th—a day with twice as many pro-Palestinian posts on American social media as pro-Israeli ones. In Britain, another YouGov survey found equal support for each side that day, when the Palestinians won the British social-media battle by a six-to-one margin.”
The BBC reports that the IDF says Israeli forces have encircled the Hamas stronghold of Gaza City. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said soldiers were engaged in close quarters combat with Hamas fighters staging hit-and-run attacks from tunnels. The UN said four of its schools being used as shelters had been damaged and warned water shortages were worsening.
The BBC further reports on the hostages, saying: “The Israeli military says that 242 people are being held hostage by Hamas. Four hostages have been released and another was freed by Israeli forces. Ori Megidish, an Israeli soldier, was freed during ground operations in Gaza on 29 October. Two women, Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifschitz, were freed on Monday 24 October. On Friday 20 October, two US hostages – a mother and daughter – were also freed.”
The Times reports on supporters of Iran-backed groups in London who have been attending marches to stir up tensions and inflame communities, saying the police have identified more than twelve groups active who have known links to Tehran.
The Financial Times reports on Netanyahu’s political support, saying: “With 1,400 people killed in the assault, according to Israeli officials, there is broad support for the ground invasion of Gaza and Netanyahu’s war aim of destroying Hamas. Despite this rush of patriotism, even those on the right are furious with the prime minister. The anger is palpable in the narrow lanes of Machane Yehuda, a big covered market in downtown Jerusalem that has long been a Likud stronghold…”
The Guardian reports that concerns that the UK Foreign Office has neglected the Israel-Palestine conflict in its tilt to the Indo-Pacific and the pursuit of trade deals across the Middle East are to be investigated by the foreign affairs select committee. Alicia Kearns, the chair of the committee, which will start holding evidence sessions on the issue in November, has been one of the most prominent MPs warning that a crisis was brewing that required greater attention and a more robust approach from the UK towards Israel’s new government. “Critics argue that the UK government, along with others, missed the danger signals and invested in an unconditional and one-sided relationship with Israel that did not acknowledge how different the government elected in November was to its predecessors.”
In The Spectator, Hugh Lovatt writes: “No matter how difficult it is for Israel to accept, long-term peace and security for Israelis will only come through a negotiated political agreement that ends Israel’s metastasising occupation and enables Palestinian self-determination. Without this, both sides will stay forever trapped in a cycle of violence.”
Yediot Ahronot’s Yossi Yehoshua looks ahead to both Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s anticipated speech and to the arrival of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Israel, both today. “The IDF top brass is being very cautious with the northern front,” he writes, “particularly in light of the fact that the commander of the Iranian Quds Force is in Beirut. It is being said more and more that Nasrallah will not risk an all-out war and will want to pay what he owes Gaza but will refrain from visiting destruction on Lebanon and on the Shiite community… [but] the state of alert that is in place has never been this high. When they say that all of the IDF is on its feet, they mean exactly these last 24 hours, after a large reservist call-up.” Yehoshua also assesses how the Hamas attacks have shifted intelligence calculations. “From conversations with senior figures among the policymakers,” he says, “it is apparent that the events of October 7 have made them more cautious with their assessments, even after they read intelligence material that is considered very reliable. As they see it, Israel must prepare for the worst, and that is the order given by the chief of staff, which was relayed to all the relevant units.”
Channel 12 also looks ahead to Blinken’s visit, and assesses current US thinking. “The assessment in Israel,” it says, “is that Blinken will pressure Israel to announce brief humanitarian lulls on behalf of the efforts to reach a prisoner exchange deal. An Israeli official confirmed… that Israel has begun to discuss a brief break in the fighting and to let humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. That said, the US is not demanding that Israel let fuel into the Gaza Strip. Humanitarian aid is one of the requests that comes up in closed-door meetings, and the Americans have stressed unequivocally: Israel must continue the fighting under the accepted rules—and increase the aid to Gaza. The US expects Israel to ‘think about creative ways for letting in aid,’ and to allow injured Gazans to exit the Gaza Strip safely.” The channel also quotes an Israeli official saying that the US is pressing Israel on its plan for post-war, post-Hamas Gaza. “The Americans support us operatively, exactly as they said, but want to know what will be at the end point,” the official said. “The objective,” the channel summaries the official as saying, “was to have significant achievements in the fighting, in a manner that makes it clear that effectively, Hamas will not govern the Gaza Strip. At that point, Israel will withdraw to a line that it will decide on later and “continue the fighting that comes after the war.” Despite the Israeli explanation, the Americans are skeptical about the definition of the plan and are concerned about that stage.”
Yediot Ahronot’s Nahum Barnea also focusses on the US angle, writing, “the army talks about needing months to purge Gaza City of Hamas terrorists. It is unlikely that the US administration can live with such a timetable and still continue to deter Hezbollah in the north and the Houthis in Yemen and keep backing Israel politically, despite the terrible pictures, despite the opposition from the left flank of the Democrats.”
Yediot Ahronot’s Sima Kadmon writes that “this is a crucial time: war in Gaza, escalating violence in the north, and the GSS director warning against settlers stepping up attacks on Palestinians and eroding security in the West Bank as well. And if that were not enough, Iran is bolstering its regional strength and growing closer to Russia, and the Houthis in Yemen have gotten involved militarily. This is no longer a war between Israel and Hamas. It looks like a regional, international, global, multi-layer war.” In this context, Kadmon repeats her call for Likud MKs to work to remove the prime minister. “Netanyahu has obviously lost his ability to manage the event,” she says. “He is focused on the security and political issue, but Israel is also facing a civic-economic fiasco, and the prime minister isn’t there. The same is true about the whole topic of public diplomacy, which is critical in terms of the window of opportunity that it gives Israel to deal with Hamas. The old Netanyahu would have pounded on the desk, provided money or backing for the dozens of volunteers who have been working on their own initiative without receiving a penny from the state.”
Yediot Ahronot features an interview with former Mossad director Yossi Cohen, widely speculated to be involved in the mediation to reach a deal to release the hostages. Of Qatari mediation, Cohen says “the question is not about whether Qatar is an honest broker. The question is whether this is effective mediation. We were able to work with the Qataris… in order to release the first two hostages. That was a small deal, true, but it was important.” Asked to confirm whether it was the Qataris who succeeded in releasing the first two hostages, Cohen says “Unequivocally. With great pressure from the Americans, of course.”
Kan Radio reports that following a dispute between Defence Minister Gallant and Finance Minister Smotrich over the transfer of tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) (see yesterday’s BICOM Morning Brief), the cabinet voted in favour of Gallant’s policy and to transfer the funds. Funds earmarked for Gaza will not be transferred, and the money that is regularly paid to terrorists and their families by the PA will be deducted.
On a related note, Israel Hayom quotes a high-ranking Israeli security official accusing Smotrich of undermining the Israeli war effort, “since a failure to transfer the money would be liable to provoke an outburst of violence in the territories, to the point of an Intifada, which will require diverting troops and attention from the north and south to Central Command.” Yediot Ahronot also quotes National Unity Party MK Gadi Eisenkot, who recently joined the government and fills a role on the war cabinet. “This is insane,” says Eisenkot of Smotrich’s interventions and that of his fellow far-right-winger Itamar Ben Gvir. “Two pyromaniacs want to ignite a third front… They have no understanding of Israel’s security problems.”