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Former Israel PM: ‘Netanyahu willing to risk hostage lives to look strong’

February 26, 2024 at 1:00 pm

Relatives of Israeli prisoners and groups supporting them carrying the Israeli flags, banners and photos of hostages march from the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s house to the tents they had previously set up, in West Jerusalem on February 17, 2024. [Saeed Qaq – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to risk the lives of hostages held by Hamas if it serves his image, a former premier remarked Sunday, Anadolu Agency reported.

“It’s more important for Netanyahu to look strong than to get a deal,” Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio in an interview.

Hamas is believed to be holding more than 130 Israeli hostages following its cross-border attack on 7 October.

The Palestinian group demands an end to Israel’s deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip for any hostage swap deal with Israel.

Barak called on Israelis to stage mass protests against Netanyahu’s government.

“We need 30,000 citizens circling the Knesset in tents for three weeks, day and night. When the country is shut down, Netanyahu will realise that his time is up and that there is no trust in him because three out of four people are calling on him to resign, and this will require holding elections by June,” Barak stated.

On Saturday, Israeli police arrested 18 people during protests in Tel Aviv to demand a hostage swap deal with Hamas and the dismissal of Netanyahu’s government.

Negotiations between Hamas, Israel resume: Egyptian media

Last week, families of hostages held by Hamas said they would escalate protests against Netanyahu’s government to pressure for their release.

A previous deal in November between Hamas and Tel Aviv saw the release of 81 Israelis and 24 foreigners in exchange for 240 Palestinians, including 71 women and 169 children.

Mounting pressure on the Israeli government comes amid reports of resuming truce talks in the Gaza Strip through meetings at the level of specialists held in Doha, followed by meetings in Cairo, according to Egyptian media reports citing informed sources.

Barak explained that if elections are set by the end of March, they can still be held in June, calling on war cabinet ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot to publicly lead this matter.

Barak referred to former Prime Minister Golda Meir, who took responsibility and resigned from her post after the 6 October, 1973 war, unlike Netanyahu, who refuses to shoulder responsibility for the failures that led to the Hamas cross-border attack on 7 October on military bases and settlements in southern Israel.

Israel has launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip since 7 October, killing more than 29,690 people and causing mass destruction and shortages of necessities, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85 per cent of the territory’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the United Nations.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.