TV reports: War cabinet gives Israel’s team in Paris some leeway on hostage terms, but deal is not close

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Mossad chief David Barnea at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 15, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Mossad chief David Barnea at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 15, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Hours after fresh talks on a framework for a new hostage-for-truce deal got underway in Paris, two Israeli TV stations report that Israel’s delegation has been given a mandate by the war coalition to show limited flexibility in certain respects, and that there is cautious optimism surrounding the negotiations but no breakthrough.

On February 13, when Israel sent delegates to talks in Cairo, they were told to listen to what was being proposed in the talks involving the US, Egypt and Qatar, but not to offer any proposals of their own. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not allow them to return to Cairo later that week because, he said, Hamas had not shifted from its “delusional” demands.

Channel 13 says that this time, the Israeli team, led by Mossad chief David Barnea, has been given leeway by the war coalition with respect to humanitarian assistance and other matters that it is barred by the military censor from specifying. It also says the Israeli team will head back home later tonight.

Channel 12 reports that the Israeli team has been empowered to ease its stance a little regarding the ratio of Palestinian security prisoners to be released in exchange for each hostage, after, it says, Hamas also eased its stance. There could also be Israeli flexibility on the length of a truce during which the deal would be implemented, and on matters relating to the post-war rehabilitation of Gaza and the return of northern Gazans to their homes.

There is no flexibility, Channel 12 stresses, regarding Israel’s rejection of the Hamas demand for a permanent ceasefire and the end of the war — a demand that Hamas continues to insist upon as a condition for a new hostage deal.

“There is optimism, but we are only at the initial stage,” Channel 12 quotes an unnamed senior Israeli source saying. “The effort is to create a basic framework with clear criteria regarding what we are discussing and what we are not. There is still no deal close at hand. The goal is to deliver one before the start of the month of Ramadan.”

It also quotes an Israeli security source saying that Israel “will step up the military pressure until the last moment, because only negotiation amid fire will bring results.”

Most Popular