After 6 Months of War, Some Israelis Ask: Is Netanyahu Dragging It Out?

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Nearly six months since it began, Israel’s war in Gaza is dragging on. So, too, is the tenure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In Israel, some are now asking: Are the two are linked?

To his allies, Mr. Netanyahu’s refusal to agree to a cease-fire in Gaza is a necessary one, made in the national interest and backed by many Israelis. The thinking goes that Israel must cripple Hamas to weaken its hand at cease-fire negotiations.

To his critics, the prime minister is dragging out the war to prevent the collapse of his fragile right-wing coalition and extend his time in office. By this analysis, he has made a domestic calculus that ignores both the growing global anger about the bloodshed — including from Israel’s most powerful ally, President Biden, which erupted into full view on Thursday — and the rising anger from the families of Israeli hostages who seek their relatives’ immediate release.

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu has long been portrayed as a vacillator who prefers to delay decisions for as long as possible so that he can keep all of his options open.

His strategy is attracting renewed scrutiny because of the scale of what is at stake: Israel’s war in Gaza, which began in response to a Hamas-led raid on Israel on Oct. 7, has since killed more than 32,000 people, according to Gazan health authorities. It has led experts to warn of a looming famine and has stigmatized Israel on the global stage, amid accusations, strongly denied by Israel, that it has pursued a genocide against Gazans.

The debate over Mr. Netanyahu’s intentions has been imbued with still more urgency by an Israeli strike this week that killed seven aid workers in Gaza, escalating international alarm over Israeli military tactics. The Israeli military took responsibility for the strike and said it was a case of misidentification.

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