'They spread despair among families, led Hamas to toughen stance'

Netanyahu said to accuse unnamed hostage negotiators of leaking fake info

Reported allegation comes days after two members of Israel’s team anonymously slammed PM’s handling of issue; PM also said to recently accuse Gallant of unauthorized disclosures

File - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Mossad chief David Barnea, April 18, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
File - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Mossad chief David Barnea, April 18, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly castigated unnamed members of Israel’s hostage negotiating team at the start of Sunday’s war cabinet meeting, accusing them of leaking false information and telling them to quit if they were not prepared to accept the government’s decisions.

In near identical quotes carried by Channel 12 and Kan TV, Netanyahu reportedly said at the meeting: “The false briefings from the negotiating team harm the efforts to bring the hostages back. They spread despair among the families of the hostages. They have led Hamas to toughen its positions. And they are false.”

Speaking three days after a Channel 12 investigative program broadcast two negotiation team members’ anonymous criticism of the premier, Netanyahu was said to have added: “If there is somebody in the negotiating team who is not prepared to accept the decisions of the political echelon, and wants to generate false, anonymous headlines for political purposes, they should show some decency and not be here.”

The negotiating team has made repeated trips to Paris, Cairo and Doha in a so-far unsuccessful effort to secure the release of the 133 hostages still held in Gaza — not all of them alive — 129 of whom were abducted on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 250 hostages.

The hostage negotiators have been unable to recreate their efforts in November, when they struck a weeklong ceasefire deal that saw the release of 105 hostages, in return for Israel releasing some 240 Palestinian security prisoners.

Israel’s negotiating team is headed by Mossad chief David Barnea, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, and Major-General (res.) Nitzan Alon, a former commander of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Central Command.

Netanyahu’s reported comments came after Channel 12’s Uvda (Fact) investigative program on Thursday broadcast interviews with two unnamed members of the negotiating team, who claimed the premier appeared to be indifferent to the fate of the hostages and has undermined efforts to secure their release through a deal with Hamas.

“I can’t say that without Netanyahu there would have been a deal, but I can say that without Netanyahu, the chances of making a deal would be better,” said one of the two negotiators.

In this handout photo, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (R) speaks with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar on October 28, 2023, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

According to the Kan report, Netanyahu has also previously accused Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of leaking material from meetings in which only the premier, Gallant, Barnea and Bar were in attendance.

“Everything leaks,” Netanyahu reportedly said at the end of a recent cabinet meeting. “I know it’s not the head of the Mossad or the head of the Shin Bet, So who else can it be?”

Gallant had reportedly participated in that meeting via telephone, but was believed to have hung up when Netanyahu aired his grievances toward the minister. The incident prompted amusement at Gallant’s expense among some Likud ministers, said the report, which did not make clear whether Gallant had indeed hung up the phone.

A related, unsourced report by Channel 12 said that Israel is dismayed by the prospect of Hamas leaders leaving Qatar, which is facing increasing pressure from United States lawmakers over its relationship with Hamas, amid the indirect hostage-for-truce negotiations Doha is mediating between the terror group and Israel.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, shake hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, April 20, 2024. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

According to Channel 12, Israel thinks Hamas’s presence in Doha gives mediator Qatar potential leverage over the terror group.

Hamas leaders are reportedly contemplating relocating to Algeria or Turkey — whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh over the weekend.

Of the 129 hostages believed to be held in Gaza since October 7, the IDF has confirmed the deaths of 34, citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

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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