National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir slams a potential deal that would see hostages held by Hamas in Gaza exchanged for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons and warned that any such deal would end in “disaster.”
Speaking to Channel 14 on Tuesday, the minister, who heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, addressed the reports that Israel is close to finalizing a deal that would see some 50 people — most likely mothers and children — freed from Gaza, where they have been held for over six weeks along with some 190 others.
“I am very upset because they’re now talking about some kind of deal,” Ben Gvir, who is a security cabinet minister, told the news outlet. “I am disturbed because we are once again being divided and once again we are not being told the truth. And once again, we are being pushed to the side. The rumors are that the State of Israel is once again going to make a very, very big mistake in the style of the Shalit deal.”
“You remember that we released Gilad Shalit, we let out [Yahya] Sinwar and his friends and brought this trouble upon ourselves,” Ben Gvir added.
The deal referred to by Ben Gvir took place in 2011 and saw Israel release 1,027 security prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006 while serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
Among those released in the deal were prominent Hamas members Husam Badran, who now serves as a spokesperson for the terror group in Qatar, and Yahya Sinwar who leads Hamas inside the Gaza Strip. Sinwar is thought to be a key mastermind of the October 7 onslaught in southern Israel in which at least 1,200 people were killed and some 240 were kidnapped.
Of those who were taken hostage on October 7, four have since been released by Hamas, and one other, Ori Megidish, was rescued by the IDF. An additional two hostages were found to have been killed by Hamas inside Gaza, and their bodies were recovered by the IDF during the ongoing ground offensive.
While the exact details of the potential hostage deal are unclear, some reports have stated that Israel will agree to a temporary ceasefire in exchange for the release of women and children, while others have suggested that in addition, Israel will release a limited number of Palestinian prisoners, also most likely women and minors.
On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that “we’re closer than we’ve been before” to finalizing the deal. An Israeli official corroborated this statement to Channel 12 news on Tuesday morning.
After declaring to Channel 14 that the rumored deal “will bring us to disaster,” Ben Gvir criticized Israel’s war cabinet, which is made up of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and minister without a portfolio Benny Gantz, who joined the government early in the war in order to join the war cabinet. In addition, MK Gadi Eisenkot serves as an observer in the cabinet.
“There is another thing, and that’s the concept that guides the war cabinet… they talked about a deal of 80 [hostages], dropped it to 70, then dropped it to 50,” Ben Gvir said. “They said they wouldn’t let food enter, then after that, they said they wouldn’t let fuel enter, and now they have fuel.”
Ben Gvir also slammed the cabinet for the decision made last week to allow limited but regular fuel deliveries to enter the Strip for the first time since October 7.
“I’m asking how we can allow this. How can you send a drop of fuel into there when you know there is no Red Cross examining the babies, the children, the women? This is idiocy! It’s delusional! Sadly, Gantz and Eisenkot are leading the cabinet down bad paths,” he concluded.
Since the war cabinet’s formation, Ben Gvir and his far-right ally Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have called for the war cabinet to include additional ministers from within the coalition.
On Monday, Smotrich, who also serves as a minister within the Defense Ministry, demanded that the cabinet be expanded to include politicians “who have cried out for years against this conception, who demanded the elimination of Hamas, including the conquering of the Gaza Strip, in order to remove its threat to the State of Israel.”
Family members of hostages held in Gaza have spoken out against the far-right ministers and their attempts to pass policies that they believe could harm their loved ones in Gaza.
On Monday, several of the family members attended a Knesset National Security Committee session in which they begged Ben Gvir not to advance legislation that would allow terrorists to be subject to the death penalty.
The death penalty has only been imposed twice in the history of the Jewish state, the last time being the execution of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann in 1962.
Speaking during the committee hearing, Gil Dickmann, a cousin of Carmel Gat who was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, pleaded with Ben Gvir, whose Otzma Yehudit party is responsible for the legislation, and said that should it be passed, the hostages could be harmed further.
“I asked you already last week and I begged you to stop. I begged you not to make any kind of hay out of us or our suffering,” Dickman said in tears. “If you see us, please remove this from the agenda.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.