Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

Possible hostage deal threatens to divide Israel’s right-wing Cabinet

By 37ci3 Feb 4, 2024



TEL AVIV – As Hamas prepares to decide on a proposed deal for a ceasefire and the release of more than a hundred hostages in Gaza, ministers, political analysts and people close to Israel’s prime minister say the deal threatens to tear Israel apart. the country’s right-wing Cabinet of Ministers.

while Hamas According to Israeli media, Israel’s War Cabinet is expected to discuss the deal at a Sunday evening meeting.

But Itamar BenGvirfar-right national security minister, threatened last week In X, “a reckless deal = the destruction of the government.”

Hours after Ben-Gvir’s comments, opposition leader Yair Lapid voluntarily included Ben-Gvir’s center-left Yesh Atid Party in the Cabinet to save the coalition and the bailout deal if he backed down.

Even if the current government survives, the conflict over the hostages exposes deep fissures in Israeli society. The agreement reveals the conflicting narratives of Israel’s own vision of one another: its solemn promise to its soldiers and citizens that no one will be left behind, against Israel’s oft-stated goal of destroying its enemies at all costs.

Where do you put the priority in terms of those who say, “Look, if these hostages are not prioritized, they’re going to die in captivity, and it’s going to be devastating to the Israeli public, and it could really tear apart the fabric of Israel’s social contract.” David Makovsky, an employee of the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy and a professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University, said. “The other side will say that we have gone this far to defeat Hamas, and if Israel withdraws before the job is done, Hamas will be more motivated to carry out the October 7 operation.”

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Netanyahu’s 2011 agreement on the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for more than five years, is a matter of discussion. In exchange for Shalit’s release, Israel released more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israel, including Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who planned and carried out the October 7 attacks.

Ben-Gvir further isolated himself from the Cabinet this weekend after publicly criticizing US President Joe Biden while praising former President Donald Trump in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He also called on Israelis to settle in the Gaza Strip – an inflammatory position that Netanyahu rejected.

“It’s clear that he’s trying to portray himself as the voice of the right wing,” said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “You now understand that Netanyahu needs it [Ben-Gvir]. I don’t know what will happen next, but now he needs it.”

‘It will destroy the coalition and also the right-wing public.’

The proposed framework for the agreement, discussed in Paris a week ago by the intelligence chiefs of Israel, the United States and Egypt, as well as the prime minister of Qatar, includes a six-week pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip. the parties will exchange Israeli hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

The deal does not include the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released for each Israeli hostage released. Even if Hamas agrees to the framework, negotiations between the two sides on these figures could drag on.

Hamas leaders have also so far met their maximalist demands from the start of the war: a complete withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Gaza Strip and a full and final cease-fire—terms that Israel rejects as if it had not even begun.

Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Beirut, told Lebanese television on Friday that the group would insist that any deal include freedom for two Palestinian militant leaders, Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, who are serving long sentences for murder in Israeli prisons. and belongs to terrorist organizations.

According to the former right-wing lawmaker, accepting these demands would come at an unacceptably high political cost for Netanyahu.

“These are two murderers we never agreed to release. I don’t believe that Netanyahu will be able to release them,” said the deputy. “It will destroy the coalition and also the right-wing public.”

The families of the hostages also hold regular protests demanding their release. Footage of hostages’ families protesting outside the prime minister’s residence, storming parliament sessions and blocking highways is a regular feature on Israeli television.

“I still believe to this day that they would rather continue the war than stop everything now to bring them home,” said Ifat Calderon, Ofer’s cousin, who was kidnapped on October 7 and remains in Gaza, at one of the protests outside. Ministry of Defence. “They have to do it. They should reach a ceasefire and then come to an agreement to return them to their homeland.”

The visible distress of the families has made the terms of the Paris agreement widely popular among the Israeli public. According to a Maariv poll published in late December, more than two-thirds of Israelis would support a deal to release hostages that would lead to a ceasefire.

Makovsky said that complicating negotiations for Israel’s right wing is the belief that a six-week ceasefire would be tantamount to ending Israel’s war against Hamas. Hundreds of thousands of reservists are now back on duty, he said, with some Israelis believing Israel could return to the same fighting strength after a six-week break.

Israelis also reckon with the failures of the war. So far, only one hostage has been freed as a result of Israeli military operations. Three of the hostages are believed to have been mistakenly shot by the Israeli military, while many more were killed by Israel’s own bombings.

For many, the issue of releasing the hostages is a binary one: destroy Hamas or bring the hostages home. Many here increasingly believe they cannot have both.



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