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Netanyahu reprimands Mossad chief for ‘lenience’ in prisoner exchange talks

February 26, 2024 at 9:53 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) chairs a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2023. [Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reprimanded Mossad chief David Barnea for his “lenience” in the talks held in Paris last weekend in the efforts to reach agreement on a temporary truce in the Gaza Strip and prisoner exchange deal with Hamas, Israel’s Channel 13 has reported.

“This is not the way negotiations should be conducted,” Netanyahu told Barnea during a telephone call to update the prime minister and the ministerial council for political and security affairs. “You have to be tougher.”

The channel reported that during the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu demanded a list of names of Israeli captives held in the Gaza Strip who are still alive, before moving forward in negotiations. The US said that an agreement had been reached on what the exchange deal should look like, during the US-Israeli-Egyptian-Qatari meeting in Paris.

The Israeli cabinet approved the continuation of the talks based on the general terms that were reached and discussed in Paris, and Israel decided to send a delegation to Qatar, to continue prisoner exchange talks with the Hamas movement. The channel noted that the optimistic atmosphere that prevailed in Israel after the return of the negotiating team from Paris on Friday morning has declined little by little.

However, the Prime Minister’s Office completely denied Channel 13‘s report. “There is a professional, reliable, and respectable dialogue between Netanyahu and the head of the Mossad, Barnea, based on mutual appreciation and common goals,” it insisted.

In turn, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu continues to toughen his positions in the negotiations and submitted a new request to “deport” to Qatar the Palestinian prisoners with long sentences who will be released as part of an exchange deal with Hamas. The channel quoted informed sources as saying that Netanyahu’s request will reduce the possibility of reaching an agreement in the near future.

Apparently “professional” sources were also quoted by the channel as saying that either Qatar or Hamas would oppose Netanyahu’s latest request. “Netanyahu is trying to procrastinate in an attempt to spoil the deal negotiations, for political reasons,” suggested political correspondent Dana Weiss, “despite the possibility of reaching a good deal.”

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