Netanyahu draws scorn for visiting rescued hostages but not bereaved families

Political opponents, relatives of slain hostages pan PM for launching publicity drive at moment of triumph but not contacting them when there was bad news

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with rescued hostage Noa Argamani, her father Yaakov and family at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024 (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with rescued hostage Noa Argamani, her father Yaakov and family at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024 (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew criticism Sunday for visiting four hostages rescued from terrorist captivity in the Gaza Strip without having made similar trips in the past to be with the families of hostages who died.

Netanyahu went to the hospital to be with the saved hostages and their families after the captives were extracted from Gaza in a special forces raid Saturday.

There have been three other rescue operations since October 7, when the Palestinian terror group Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw terrorists abduct 251 people from Israel and take them as hostages to Gaza.

Two rescue operations managed to pull out hostages alive, while during a third, one of the hostages was killed. The bodies of a number of hostages have been found, some of them believed murdered by Hamas after being taken to Gaza.

Netanyahu was censured for meeting personally with the families of the hostages rescued Saturday, while sufficing with sending a written message when rescue attempts went awry, or nothing at all in the cases of many of those who have died.

“If you are the prime minister, you are the prime minister of both successes and failures,” Opposition Leader MK Yair Lapid told the Kan public broadcaster. “Disappearing when things don’t go your way is disgraceful, but is this something we didn’t know about before?”

Opposition Head Yair Lapid speaks during his Yesh Atid party’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset, June 3, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Yair Golan, who was recently elected to lead the opposition Labor party, posted to X: “A reasonable prime minister comforts everyone. A reasonable prime minister does not divide victims into ‘ours’ and ‘theirs.'”

Avi Marciano, father of Noa Marciano, who was murdered in captivity before her body was retrieved from Gaza, wrote on Facebook: “I’m looking at Yaakov, the father of Noa Argamani, and can’t not be moved. I’m genuinely happy for all the families who got to embrace their loved ones. I’m also jealous.”

“This highlights how our ending was bad. When it ends badly, the prime minister doesn’t come. He also doesn’t call,” Marciano wrote.

Yonatan Shamriz, whose brother Alon was mistakenly killed by IDF troops along with two other hostages, chastised Netanyahu for “taking half a day to get a grip” on October 7, while rushing Saturday to meet the rescued hostages and their families “within 15 minutes.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with rescued hostage Almog Meir Jan at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024 (Maayan Toaf / GPO)

Referring to comments by military officials that Saturday’s rescue mission was a “hair’s breadth” between success and failure, Shamriz claimed Netanyahu gambled “50-50” on the hostages’ lives, and that had it failed the families would “only have gotten a letter.”

Former minister Izhar Shay, whose son IDF Sgt. Yaron Oree Shay was killed on October 7 defending an Israeli community against Hamas’s attack, posted to X a photo of his son from an occasion when he met Netanyahu in the past.

“I am one of those bereaved parents whom the prime minister did not bother to call. My son fell among heroes and in dying saved the lives of hundreds of citizens,” Shay wrote.

“But even if he had been murdered in his sleep or kidnapped from his home, a moral and honorable prime minister would have called to comfort and give strength, and to apologize that it happened on his watch. I’m not mad at him. Not at all. I scorn him, wretched man,” he wrote.

There was more condemnation during a weekly mass demonstration where protesters called on the government to agree to a deal with Hamas that would secure the release of the remaining hostages.

Speaking on the main stage of an anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Malka criticized the prime minister for rushing to meet and be photographed with released hostages and their families after not having contacted the families of hostages who were killed in captivity, including the families of Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Haim Peri, whose deaths were announced by the IDF last this week.

The four rescued hostages, who had been in Hamas captivity for eight months, were all in good condition, according to initial medical assessments. They were taken by helicopters from the Strip to hospitals in Israel for further evaluation.

Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40, were abducted from the Supernova music festival near the community of Re’im on the morning of October 7.

Netanyahu delivered a brief statement at Sheba Medical Center after visiting the freed hostages and their families.

“I want to repeat and make clear: We will bring them all back. We’re working right now on returning more hostages, on more possibilities. We will return them all,” he said.

Following Saturday’s rescue, 116 of the 251 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 still remain in Gaza, though dozens of them are believed dead. A weeklong truce in late November saw 105 civilians released from Hamas captivity and four hostages were released before that.

In all, seven hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 19 hostages have been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 41 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and her fate is still unknown, although her family believes she is dead.

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