Despite his tough public posturing, the Israeli prime minister told Obama that he has no plans to launch a ground war in Gaza unless Hamas escalates its rocket attacks. Eli Lake reports.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave private assurances to Barack Obama on Friday evening that his country was not planning at that moment to launch a ground invasion of Gaza—but those plans would change, he said, if Hamas escalated its rocket war.
The private assurances were at odds with public signals from Israel’s military. Tanks and artillery gathered at the border with Gaza on Saturday in preparation for what looked like an incursion. Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Avital Leibovich told The Telegraph, “Morale is high. We are currently training and preparing for ground possibilities.”
But this was not the message from the Israeli leader in his conversation with Obama, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the call. These sources say Netanyahu said Israel would not consider a full-scale ground invasion unless there was escalation from Hamas or a strike that caused significant casualties. There has not been, for example, a date set for such an invasion—nor are the other kinds of contingency plans Israel would need in such a circumstance in place, according to these U.S. officials, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the conversations.
One senior U.S. official told The Daily Beast, “The Israeli leadership at this point is leaning against a ground invasion. No one wants that. If Hamas ratchets up the pressure, however, they may elect to do so.”