In a dramatic display of unity, the Israeli peace movement has taken to the streets, demanding the release of all hostages on both sides and urging the immediate removal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office. Thousands have participated in demonstrations from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, pushing for a full ceasefire and an end to the conflict.
As the four-day ‘truce’ approaches its conclusion, pro-peace forces, led by the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality coalition (Hadash), utilised a recent Supreme Court victory over a police ban on demonstrations. They aim to convey to the world that the extremists in Netanyahu’s war cabinet lack unanimous support from the Israeli people.
Despite a 48-hour extension accepted by Netanyahu, the government remains determined to resume military operations in Gaza. The peace protesters advocate for an “all-for-all” hostage deal, seeking the release of all hostages on both sides in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Ayman Odeh, a member of the Knesset and chairman of the Hadash coalition, welcomed the initial release of hostages and emphasised the need to continue until all captives, Israeli and Palestinian, are freed. He stressed the importance of a political agreement to end the Israeli occupation, free political prisoners, stop terror, and establish a Palestinian state.
As the hostage exchange unfolds, the Israeli government attempts to control media coverage, focusing on returning Israeli hostages and downplaying the release of Palestinians. The strategy aims to garner support for the government’s stance on the Gaza conflict.
The release of Israeli captives is highlighted with public events, while celebrations or community gatherings for freed Palestinians are prohibited. This discrepancy raises questions about Israel’s system of mass Palestinian detention, with concerns about the treatment of prisoners, including women and children.
As the truce expiration nears, the Israeli Defense Forces express eagerness to resume military actions. General Herzi Halevi assured soldiers of the imminent restart of combat, with Netanyahu pledging that the war will continue unabated.
The focus of the next military campaign is expected to be the southern section of Gaza, previously considered “safe”. The IDF plans to deploy troops and tanks to Khan Younis as the ground campaign resumes.
In Washington, the Biden administration views the hostage release deal as a potential redemption, deflecting attention from its consistent support for Netanyahu. However, public demonstrations against the Gaza conflict continue in the US, with polls indicating a decline in support for Biden, especially among Arab-American voters and the youth.
The Biden administration’s concern about increased media access to Gaza reveals worries about potential scrutiny of Israel’s actions and war crimes. The fear of a shift in public opinion prompts efforts to tightly control information about the conflict.
Despite these dynamics, voices of peace campaigners like Maoz Yanon, who lost parents in the conflict, are not heeded by either the Israeli Prime Minister or the US President. As the truce wanes, the situation remains tense, with the hope for a lasting ceasefire and a comprehensive political solution hanging in the balance.