Gantz: Returning the hostages is a priority; we have decades if needed to destroy Hamas

From left: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz at a televised press conference on November 18, 2023 (Channel 12/GPO Screenshot)
From left: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz at a televised press conference on November 18, 2023 (Channel 12/GPO Screenshot)

Prime Minister Netanyahu, at his ongoing press conference, is asked if he passed up a serious deal on Tuesday for a release of some 50 hostages, and if he’s insisting that all be released.

Netanyahu says “There was no deal on the table” and he can’t elaborate further.

“We want to get back all the hostages,” he says. “We’re doing the utmost to bring back the most possible, including in stages, and we are united on this.”

“We obviously want to bring [home] whole families together,” he adds later in the press conference.

Asked about Likud MKs privately saying he’ll “have to go home” after the war, Netanyahu says, “I hear different things.”

Asked about a survey showing most of the public wants new elections after the war, Netanyahu says he is “stunned” at the focus on politics “when our soldiers are fighting in Gaza, falling in battle; the families of the hostages are in a giant nightmare…. There’ll be time for politics.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also criticizes questions about Israel’s political future. He says he’s solely focused on the war, he says. “The results of this war” will shape Israel for decades, he says.

Minister Benny Gantz says the war cabinet is running the war effectively. He also says he hopes Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will join the emergency coalition.

Gantz also praises contributions to the war effort from the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors.

On the hostages, Gantz says Israel has “decades if needed to destroy this thing” — an apparent reference to Hamas. “We don’t have decades to bring the people home… So, yes, from my point of view, it is a priority to get the hostages back. But that priority doesn’t override our obligation” to destroy Hamas, “however long it takes.”

“I want to bring back the elderly, and the children. Nobody here wants anything else. Nobody in Israel wants anything else,” says Gantz.

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