Netanyahu said ‘frittering away’ hostage deal by unilaterally toughening demands

Reports say war cabinet ministers disagree on goals of hostage talks; Hamas leader Sinwar said conditioning deal on an end to fighting and his survival

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara at his side, meets with representatives of families whose loved ones are being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, October 28, 2023. (GPO)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara at his side, meets with representatives of families whose loved ones are being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, October 28, 2023. (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a unilateral decision on Wednesday to toughen a series of guidelines set recently by the government for a potential deal to release 136 hostages believed to be held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza, according to Hebrew media.


Channel 13 reported on Wednesday night that Netanyahu had made the changes without coordinating with ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot of the National Unity party. Gantz, along with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, is a member of the war cabinet that was set up to manage the war with Hamas, and Eisenkot is an observer. The report did not say whether Gallant knew about the move.

It did not detail the changes Netanyahu reportedly made.

Unnamed government sources told Channel 13 that “ministers in the war cabinet” were angry when they found out and confronted Netanyahu who is “frittering away progress on a hostage deal.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said in response that “Hamas’s demand, which Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed outright, was to end the fighting,” but did not make any mention of the guidelines.

Other unnamed sources told Channel 12 News on Wednesday night that negotiations were still continuing but were not going anywhere because Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was not willing to be flexible and the only conditions he would discuss were the end of the war and his guaranteed survival afterward.

As Sunday marked 100 days since the beginning of the war and the hostages’ abduction, the war cabinet was reportedly split on the parameters it would accept for a hostage deal. Eisenkot was pushing for a long truce in exchange for the hostages’ freedom, which Gantz supported, but Netanyahu and Gallant were strongly opposed to.

A man lights candles to mark 100 days since the start of the war during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the current Israeli government, in Tel Aviv, January 13, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Netanyahu and Gallant have repeatedly said that the only way to get the hostages back is to keep applying military pressure on Gaza by continuing the war.

A deal in November secured the release of 105 hostages during a weeklong truce. As part of the deal, Israel agreed to extend the truce by one day for every 10 hostages that were released. In return for every Israeli hostage, three female or underage Palestinians were released from prison.

In another agreement this week, Israel secured the delivery of essential medications into Gaza for some of the hostages who suffer from chronic diseases and require prescription medication. A senior Hamas official said that for every box of medicine going into Gaza for hostages, there were 1,000 additional boxes for Palestinians in Gaza.

Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on October 7 which resulted in the deaths of some 1,200 people in Israel, most of them civilians, and with around 250 others taken hostage

People walk by photographs of civilians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at “Hostage Square” in Tel Aviv. January 13, 2024. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

It is believed that 132 of those now remain in Gaza, though not all of them are alive. Four hostages were released prior to the November deal, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 27 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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