Smotrich says government ‘has no right to exist’ unless it invades Rafah, rejects hostage deal

Finance Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference at the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference at the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich warns that the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have “no right of existence” unless Israel invades Rafah.

Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, makes this warning in a filmed message on X. He also rejects in the message an Egyptian-mediated deal with Hamas to retrieve the dozens of Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and scaling back the Israeli offensive there as a “humiliating surrender to the Nazis on the backs of hundreds of IDF soldiers” who died there.

“If you decide to fly a white flag and cancel the order to conquer Rafah immediately to complete the mission of destroying Hamas and restore peace for the residents of southern Israel and all of the country’s citizens, and return our abducted brothers and sisters who are held hostage to their homes – then the government you head will have no right of existence,” says Smotrich.

Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the United States are engaged in indirect talks on a deal to retrieve the hostages taken from Israel.

If Smotrich’s party leaves the coalition, Netanyahu’s government will depend on the cooperation of Benny Gantz, head of the National Unity centrist party, which he took from the opposition to the coalition to be part of a wartime government.

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