(Bloomberg) -- Israel will face dire consequences if it sends troops into the besieged Gazan city of Rafah, according to Ehud Olmert, a former prime minister.

Olmert said the nation’s current leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, should stop the war against Hamas and focus on a plan that will enable the Israeli army to leave Gaza and international forces to go in as peacekeepers.

The 78-year-old, who led his country between 2006 and 2009 and has long been disdainful of Netanyahu, says other nations, including the US, will find an assault on Rafah intolerable.

“The patience of the international community has reached a point from where I don’t think they’ll be able to absorb it,” he said in an interview.

The most immediate danger for Israel, he said, is that neighboring Egypt could revoke its 45-year-old diplomatic treaty with the Jewish state.

“It may shatter the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt,” Olmert said in his Tel Aviv office, decorated with two big photos of him and former US President George W. Bush. “This is a risk we cannot afford to take.”

The Egyptian government would be happy to see Hamas destroyed, he said, but is concerned how its people would react to more Palestinian deaths. 

Egypt has warned Israel not to move ground forces into Rafah, where more than one million civilians have sought shelter, though hasn’t said it would pull out of the peace deal.

Militants from Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, rampaged through southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping 250. Israel’s retaliatory air and ground attack has killed almost 30,000 in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, infuriating the Arab and Muslim world.

Netanyahu and his coalition, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, say an offensive on Rafah is necessary to destroy Hamas as a military and governing force. Israeli officials believe the Iran-backed group has between 5,000 and 8,000 fighters in the city as well as the remaining 100 hostages.

They have pledged to allow civilians to leave before troops move in, but details of that plan are scarce.

Read More: Why Rafah Is Raising Fears in Israel-Hamas War: QuickTake

The government’s stance is backed by most Israelis, making Olmert somewhat of a lone voice in a country still traumatized by Hamas’ attack and where calls for a cease-fire can provoke heavy criticism.

Olmert, who was forced from office on corruption charges and spent 16 months in prison, is also unusual in that he began on the right politically and has moved firmly to the left over the past 20 years. Much of the country has migrated in the opposite direction.

He still speaks to senior US and Arab officials and says the longer the war continues, the harder it will be to convince the international community to fund Gaza’s reconstruction and send in peacekeepers. Without the latter, Israel will have to keep troops in the Palestinian territory indefinitely and they’ll be constantly targeted by militants, he says.

“We will be policing them and every day there will be Israelis killed,” said Olmert, who was one of the architects of Israel withdrawing Jewish settlers from Gaza in 2005, which some on the right now blame for allowing Hamas to take control two years later.

Olmert cites the presence of European troops in the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon and says something similar could be set up in Gaza. Arab nations, he argues, won’t want to move personnel into Gaza immediately but may be willing to take over from Europeans within two years if the enclave is stable.

Once Israel’s army is out of Gaza, the government must start peace negotiations with the Palestinians, he says. While those should be without pre-conditions, it’s in Israel’s interests to eventually allow for an independent Palestinian state, he said.

That’s the position of most of the rest of the world, including US President Joe Biden. But the government and the majority of Israelis — including those who no longer support Netanyahu — say Hamas’ attack underscores how their country can’t afford to have an independent Palestinian state as a neighbor because it will be taken over by militants.

“For a very long period of time, Israel won the hatred of many people across the world because of the occupation,” Olmert says, referring to Gaza and the West Bank. “Because we, for many years, denied any attempt to reach a reasonable understanding with the Palestinians. We haven’t helped create the environment where they can exercise their right to self-determination.”

Read More: Netanyahu Boxed In by Pressure Over War, Politics, Budget

Netanyahu, he says, is trying to prolong the war and avoid early elections, which the prime minister denies.

While Netanyahu’s popularity has plummeted because of the military and intelligence failings that enabled Hamas’ incursion, he has a strong parliamentary majority and the next polls aren’t scheduled until 2026.

Olmert predicts mass protests will break out in Israel once fighting in Gaza ends. They’ll be bigger than the ones in the months before the war — caused by the government’s attempt to weaken the judiciary — and they’ll force Netanyahu to call a vote this year, he says.

“There’s a degree of rage — I see it in the hearts of people now — unprecedented in the state of Israel,” he said. “The hatred against Netanyahu. All this is building up. It will erupt.”

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