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Israeli army wants Gaza truce amid tensions with Netanyahu, Hezbollah — NYT

Herzi Halevi, chief of Israeli military staff, with Israeli PM Netanyahu. / Photo: AFP

Running short of munitions supply and morale, Israeli generals are pushing for ceasefire with Hamas resistance group to prepare for a potential conflict with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a stance that contrasts sharply with hawkish PM Netanyahu, NYT reports.

In a significant divergence from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance on the Gaza war, the country’s top military leaders are advocating for a ceasefire with Hamas resistance group, American newspaper New York Times reported.

Israeli generals believe a ceasefire is essential for freeing the remaining captives held in Gaza and for preparing Israeli forces for a potential larger conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to NYT’s interviews with six current and former security officials, Israel’s military leaders are convinced that a truce is the quickest and safest way to rescue the approximately 120 Israelis still held captive in Gaza.

Israeli army top brass argue that their forces, now under-equipped after Tel Aviv’s longest war in decades, need time to recuperate and rearm in case a full-scale war breaks out with Hezbollah, engaged in a low-level conflict with Israel since October.

The General Staff Forum, Israel’s top military body, comprising around 30 senior most generals including Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the military chief of staff, has reached a consensus that a temporary ceasefire in Gaza could ease tensions with Hezbollah.

There were unconfirmed reports about Halevi’s possible resignation in few weeks.

Lack of direction

Eyal Hulata, Israel’s national security adviser until early last year, stated, “The military is in full support of a hostage deal and a ceasefire. They believe they can always re-engage Hamas militarily if necessary.

A pause in Gaza increases the chances of de-escalation in Lebanon and provides time to prepare for a potential larger conflict with Hezbollah.”

The military’s shift in strategy reflects a growing frustration with Netanyahu’s refusal to outline a clear Gaza plan. This lack of direction has created a power vacuum in the besieged enclave, forcing Israeli forces to repeatedly clear areas of Hamas fighters.

Public statements from military leaders have increasingly hinted at their private dissatisfaction with the current strategy.

Netanyahu has reiterated his commitment to achieving all war objectives, including eliminating Hamas and securing the hostages’ release, a goal declared far-fetched by many experts including Israeli defence analysts.

The Israeli PM remains wary of any truce that might preserve Hamas’s power, fearing it could destabilise his extremist regime.

More than eight months after Gaza’s invasion, Israeli generals have concluded that continuing military operations to free the hostages risks their lives. With no clear plan for Gaza’s future, the military fears a prolonged conflict will deplete its resources and morale while leaving Hamas leaders unscathed.

Strained military, dwindling resources

The military’s public statements, while not directly endorsing a ceasefire, have suggested their preference. Admiral Hagari has recently implied that the current strategy was misleading the public, and General Halevi highlighted military achievements to justify ending the war without losing face.

In a recent interview, Netanyahu dismissed calls to end the war but acknowledged the need to reallocate forces to the north, a move seen as preparation for potential conflict with Hezbollah.

Experts opine that Israel finds its military strained and resources dwindling currently. Reservists are on their third tour of duty, and morale is low. With over 4,000 soldiers injured and equipment shortages, the military is cautious about extending the conflict.

“If dragged into a larger war, we have enough resources and manpower,” Hulata said. “But we prefer to enter under the best conditions, which we currently lack.”

Israeli military generals’ push for a ceasefire in Gaza can be viewed as a clearly thought-out approach to Tel Aviv’s security challenges — one that prioritises immediate concerns and long-term strategic stability over prolonged military engagements.