Government sacrificing hostages, families say, following fraught Hanegbi meet

Top Netanyahu aide reportedly told families moves being driven by polling; Likud MK apologizes after accusing hostage’s brother of using situation to promote political agenda

People in Tel Aviv walk by photographs of hostages held in Gaza, on May 28, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
People in Tel Aviv walk by photographs of hostages held in Gaza, on May 28, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Relatives of hostages held in the Gaza Strip accused the government on Friday of “sacrificing” their loved ones, after a heated meeting attended by some of the families Thursday in which National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi reportedly said Israel would not end the war in Gaza for a deal to save all the abductees.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum also panned Likud MK Hanoch Milwidsky, who accused the brother of hostage Itzik Elgarat of using his suffering to promote an anti-government agenda.

“The Israeli government has decided to intentionally and knowingly sacrifice the hostages, withdrawing from a fundamental moral principle by which Israel will never leave anyone behind,” the forum said in a statement Friday morning. “It prefers to continue the fighting over achieving the higher goal of freeing the hostages who have been abandoned by the government.”

During the meeting with the hostages’ families, Hanegbi, a close aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reportedly said that the current government would not agree to end its war against Hamas to win the release of all the remaining hostages held by the terror group.

Hamas said in a statement Thursday that it was ready to reach “a complete agreement” with Israel, including for the release of all the hostages in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners, but will only do so if Israel “stops its war and aggression against people in Gaza.”

It is believed that 121 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza as well as four others who have been held there for nearly a decade. The tally includes the remains of 39 abductees who the IDF says have been killed.

“This government will not make a decision to stop the war for the return of all the hostages,” Hanegbi was quoted saying, in comments leaked to Channel 12 news. “We have to keep fighting so that there won’t be another October 7 in October 2027.”

Speaking to Army Radio Friday morning, Gil Dickmann, cousin of hostage Carmel Gat, said Hanegbi had also told the families that the only way the government would agree to a deal that would bring the hostages back would be “if polls told the government that it would be worthwhile for it politically.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi at a press conference after the US allowed Israel into its visa-waiver program, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on September 28, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

According to Channel 12 news, during the meeting Hanegbi snapped at relatives who criticized Netanyahu, telling one that she had no place to “feel pain and hatred like this,” and mocking another relative when she moved to leave the room in anger.

Communications between the families of hostages and Netanyahu’s administration have grown increasingly fraught in recent months as protests against the government for failing to prioritize the hostages have ramped up, with some relatives joining forces with anti-government activist groups.

Both sides have accused the other of politicizing the issue.

“The captives, and the entire State of Israel, have been taken hostage by those who choose political interests over their national duties,” the forum charged in its Friday statement.

Mothers of Israeli soldiers fighting in the Gaza Strip protest against the war in Gaza and demanding its end, outside the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, May 29, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Those tensions were also on display earlier Thursday during a live interview on Kan television as Mildiwsky accused Danny Elgarat of exploiting his brother’s captivity to advance his personal political stances.

Elgarat replied that the government was taking advantage of the situation to stay in power and told Milwidskly to “go home,” to which the MK responded that he would “continue to protect the State of Israel from people like you.”

Milwidsky said on Friday morning that he later phoned Elgarat to apologize.

Speaking to Kan radio, Milwidsky said he told Elgarat that despite their disagreements, “it wasn’t right for me to say those things at all, and definitely not live [on TV].”

“I really hope to see his brother in Israel as soon as possible. And he accepted it and he apologized also for things he said and we ended the conversation with hopes for better days,” the lawmaker added.

Likud MK Hanoch Milwidsky speaks in an interview with Kan, May 30, 2024. (Kan, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hanegbi told Channel 12 Thursday that since the Hamas onslaught of October 7, he has tried to facilitate “open dialogue between the political leadership and the families in pain.”

“I won’t change that practice, even in the wake of today’s meeting. Israel is obligated to achieve the release of all the hostages and will do so,” he added.

Responding to his comments, freshly installed Labor party head Yair Golan wrote on X on Thursday night that “the quotes from the meeting confirm that this is a cruel government to its people.”

“The Netanyahu-Gantz government is sacrificing the hostages, risking the nation’s security, and depressing every Jewish and Israeli value,” he wrote.

On Friday, Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak told Army Radio that the government does not see the hostages as its first priority and that “if this is a government that is dictated by polls, they can close up and go home.”

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