War cabinet cancels meeting amid disagreements over potential hostage deal, Rafah operation

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

This evening’s meeting of the war cabinet has been canceled, an Israeli official confirms to the Times of Israel.

The cancellation comes amid strong disagreements between members of the broader cabinet over a possible Egyptian-mediated hostage deal and its potential impact on Israel’s looming Rafah operation. Both National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have expressed opposition to a deal that would scale back or temporarily halt the fighting, while war cabinet minister Benny Gantz asserted earlier this week that if the government rejects a hostage deal that is backed by the security services, it will “have no right to continue to exist.”

The war cabinet has three voting members: Netanyahu, Gantz, and Gallant. National Unity’s Gadi Eisenkot is an observer, as are Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, both confidants of Netanyahu.

Ben Gvir met with Netanyahu to discuss the deal and operation ahead of this afternoon’s general cabinet meeting, which Smotrich skipped in favor of a faction meeting of his hard-right Religious Zionism party.

Netanyahu said today that Israel “will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there — whether or not there is a deal — in order to achieve total victory.”

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