Hanegbi reportedly snaps at relatives who criticize Netanyahu

Israel won’t end war for deal to free all hostages, PM’s aide said to tell families

National security adviser Hanegbi says it will be possible to free female, elderly and sick hostages in coming months, but warns effort to release remainder unlikely to succeed

Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, outside the Kirya IDF HQ in Tel Aviv, May 27, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, outside the Kirya IDF HQ in Tel Aviv, May 27, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi reportedly told relatives of hostages on Thursday that the current government will not agree to end its war against Hamas in exchange for the release of all the remaining hostages held by the terror group.

The message — made during a heated meeting during which Hanegbi reportedly rebuked and insulted the relatives of several hostages –appeared to be the first time a top Israeli official was quoted making such an admission. It highlighted the crux of the repeated impasse in the hostage negotiations where Hamas has insisted on a permanent ceasefire, while Israel has only been willing to agree to a temporary truce.

Hanegbi clarified that he did think the government would be able to achieve the first phase of the deal currently on the table that would see female, elderly and wounded hostages released, according to transcripts from the sit-down leaked to Channel 12. Those categories are believed to amount to up to 33 of the 121 remaining hostages.

The second and third stages of the yet-to-be-agreed deal would see Hamas free the remaining hostages — men and soldiers — followed by the bodies of those killed in captivity. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 37 of those still held by Hamas. During the latter two phases, the mediators envision Israel agreeing to negotiate a permanent end to the fighting — a step Israel has not indicated it is prepared to take without Hamas’s defeat.

Hanegbi’s comments indicated that the government believes Hamas will refuse to release the rest of the hostages unless Israel agrees to end the war, and that the current coalition would refuse such a demand.

The terror group stiffened its demands on Thursday when it said it informed mediators that it would only return to the indirect negotiations for a hostage deal if Israel ceased all its operations in the Gaza Strip. Hamas said in a statement 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.”

National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi arrives for a meeting with families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza in Herzliya on December 5, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

In his meeting with the hostages’ relatives, Hanegbi assured them that Israel would soon secure implementation of the deal’s first phase. “The first stage of the deal, the humanitarian phase, we will be able to achieve within a few short months. It won’t take many months and not years,” the transcripts leaked to Channel 12 quoted him as having said.

However, he added, “I don’t believe that this government will succeed in completing the entire deal. This government will not make a decision to stop the war for the return of all the hostages.”

“We have to keep fighting so that there won’t be another October 7 in October 2027,” Hanegbi said.

“If the hostages don’t return within weeks or a few short months, we have no alternate plan,” he acknowledged. “We will continue to fight in Gaza and in the north, and only then will we reassess.”

In response, one of the participants reportedly said, “Well, then we’re lost.”

Hanegbi replied, “That’s correct.”

IDF soldiers operate in central Gaza, in a photo cleared for publication on May 20, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to the leaked quotes from the meeting, one of the participants went on to raise recent reports that public funds had been allocated for the renovation of the swimming pool in Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu’s private home, saying such spending should not be made in the middle of the war.

Hanegbi, a long-time close aide to the prime minister, didn’t take the remark well. “He can build 10 pools with his money if he wants. What an abhorrent thing to say,” he reportedly shot back, adding that this was not the right forum to raise such qualms and accusing the woman of exuding hatred.

The relative responded: “I have every right to feel pain and hate because I was in the safe room [of my home] for 15 hours [during the Hamas onslaught]. I fled from the terrorists and had to step on dead bodies. You didn’t.”

To which Hanegbi reportedly responded, “Okay, go ahead then. Curse me.”

At this point, the woman left the room in tears, Channel 12 reported. Another female participant then headed angrily toward the door, leading Hanegbi to say, “You’re also going to make a scene and slam the door after you?”

Channel 12 said it cross-checked the quotes with members of five different families and added that Hangebi did not deny them.

Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza seen protesting at a Knesset session, on May 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Responding to the report, Hanegbi told Channel 12 that he “has met with the families of all hostages who seek to consult with him since the beginning of the war. He does not record these conversations and does not disseminate their contents. This is how to appropriately hold an open dialogue between the political echelon 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.

Jabaliya tunnel demolition, Netanyahu-Gallant meeting

With the government under pressure to reach a deal, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Thursday released a second propaganda video showing hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 30, after publishing a short video earlier this week, on Tuesday.

Also on Thursday, the IDF said it demolished a Hamas tunnel network in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya from which the bodies of seven hostages were recovered earlier this month.

The bodies of Ron Benjamin, Itzhak Gelerenter, Amit Buskila, and Shani Louk were recovered on May 17, and the bodies of Orión Hernández Radoux, Hanan Yablonka and Michel Nisenbaum were recovered on May 23. All seven were murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and their bodies were kidnapped to Gaza, according to the IDF.

The tunnel was demolished by the elite Yahalom combat engineering unit, using engineering vehicles, mines, and other “technological means,” after the IDF ruled out the possibility of any more hostages being held in the area, the military added.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu met in person with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for the first time since Gallant publicly called for Netanyahu to make “tough decisions” on post-war Gaza two weeks ago, Ynet reported.

The two met at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv ahead of scheduled war cabinet and security cabinet meetings. The war cabinet was set to discuss who would govern Gaza after the war, according to Hebrew media reports.

Unnamed associates of Netanyahu told the Walla news site the prime minister was expected to reprimand Gallant for his public criticism, in which the defense minister urged Netanyahu to put personal and political interests aside, rule out Israeli civil or military control of the Gaza Strip, and make plans for “Palestinian entities” without ties to Hamas to rule the enclave when operations are over.

The meeting also came after Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity party submitted a bill to dissolve the Knesset, ahead of his party’s expected departure from the emergency coalition it joined at the start of the war with Hamas. Gantz made a speech issuing similar criticisms of Netanyahu days after Gallant’s address, and issued a June 8 ultimatum for the prime minister to address a series of vital challenges.

Netanyahu, Gantz, and Gallant are the only three voting members of the war cabinet.

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