“We have been running circles around Khan Younis for weeks,” said the Israeli army platoon commander in mid-January. “The military leadership is waiting for a political plan. But there is none.”

Then Israel captured the second largest city in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of Israeli soldiers died in weeks of fighting. A few thousand Hamas fighters were killed, but also hundreds of civilians; up to 8,000 are still missing under the rubble of Khan Younis.

Then, at the beginning of April, Israel withdrew its troops from the city overnight. Many residents returned. And, with the civilians protecting them, Hamas did too.

“Why don’t we control who comes back to Khan Younis?” the same IDF platoon leader asked after the withdrawal. “This is a big mistake.” Not for the first time, the war they had to fight seemed to him and his men to be negligently haphazard. Why all the sacrifices if Israel ultimately gave Hamas the field again?

It is this negligent lack of planning on the part of the Israeli leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that is now, after more than seven months of war, causing even its closest ally to begin to move away from it.

At the beginning of April, Joe Biden had already called for Netanyahu to change course in the Gaza war: better protection for civilians, more humanitarian aid – and, above all, a political plan to prevent Hamas from returning to power after the end of the war. “Otherwise we will no longer be able to support you,” Joe Biden warned in a phone call with Netanyahu at the time.

But apart from humanitarian gestures, Israel’s prime minister remained true to his uncompromising line: military toughness, coupled with a rejection of a future Palestinian state and any idea of ​​building an independent civil order in the Gaza Strip.

But talk of a total military victory over Hamas has become hollow.

Because the last Hamas battalions supposedly holed up in the tunnels under Rafah may not even exist. Why should the terrorists stay there in such large numbers and make an easy target when they have been able to mingle with the civilians for weeks and spread out again across Rafah, Khan Younis and other places?

In view of numerous new Hamas attacks in areas supposedly cleared by Israel’s army, it is becoming increasingly clear: The militia is weakened, but the threat from Hamas to Israel cannot be completely eliminated militarily as long as there are no Palestinian structures that are committed to terror can effectively counteract.

Anyone who wants to defeat Hamas must promote an alternative to Hamas instead of preventing it.

With his refusal to supply US weapons to Israel for an invasion of Rafah, Joe Biden is following up his April warning with action. For the time being, America is no longer willing to support a war that has become an end in itself and shows no prospect of a “day after.” To a sustainable post-war order, without which security and peace cannot be guaranteed for either Israel or the Palestinians.

No US president has ever supported Israel as much as Joe Biden. The fact that this president in particular – out of concern for Israel – is now holding back further arms deliveries shows that Israel’s government has maneuvered itself into a dead end.

As if that wasn’t obvious enough, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu’s minister of national security, wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Biden loves Hamas.” Meanwhile, his police officers are beating up demonstrating relatives of the Hamas hostages on the streets of Israel who want their own government to finally conclude a deal to free their relatives. A deal that the US government also advises Israel to take.

Next week, the people of Israel will celebrate two important days of remembrance: the Day of Remembrance of the Army Fallen and Victims of Terrorism and, immediately after, Independence Day. In Israel, these days are traditionally an occasion for personal but also collective pause. This will be even more so in the first year after the most devastating massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

A good opportunity for Israel’s leadership – not only the prime minister, but also the members of the war cabinet – to explain to their own people why the war in the Gaza Strip cannot continue as before.