Ministers said to confront Smotrich and Ben Gvir for opposing hostage deal

Religious Zionist party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich (right) with Otzma Yehudit party leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir in the Knesset plenum, December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Religious Zionist party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich (right) with Otzma Yehudit party leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir in the Knesset plenum, December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Several tense exchanges have reportedly occurred during the ongoing cabinet vote on a deal that will see Hamas release some 50 hostages — children, mothers, and women — in exchange for a ceasefire of 4-5 days and the release of 150-300 Palestinian prisoners.

According to leaks reported by Hebrew media, Minister Benny Gantz responds angrily to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for expressing concern Hamas will seek to extend the ceasefire. Smotrich and his far-right Religious Zionism party have come out against the agreement.

“Do you trust [Yahya] Sinwar more than us?” Gantz is quoted as saying, referring to the Hamas chief in Gaza who Israel has accused of helping mastermind the October 7 massacres.

In another exchange, Likud ministers Miki Zohar and Gila Gamliel confront National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for holding a faction meeting of his ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party before the cabinet convened, after announcing he and his faction would vote against the agreement. Gamliel reportedly stresses to Ben Gvir the importance of unity.

“But we are not united,” Ben Gvir says. “This is a decision with generational damage that will come back to hurt us badly.”

Ministers from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party have left the meeting after leaving a note saying they back the agreement.

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