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Smotrich ‘will vote against’ freeing hostages in exchange for ending Gaza war

February 26, 2024 at 3:11 pm

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, during a news conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel, on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. [Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Sunday that he will oppose any agreement that leads to freeing all Israeli captives held by Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza in exchange for ending the ongoing Israeli war against Palestinians in the besieged territory. The extreme far-right minister told a conference organised by Israeli Hebrew language weekly B’Sheva that he will also oppose the release of Palestinian prisoners with high sentences as part of any exchange deal.

“The negotiations are being conducted in a ridiculous manner. I will vote against any deal with the current outline as it was reported,” said Smotrich. “The war has priorities, first and foremost the victory over Hamas, and then the second goal is the return of the hostages.” He reiterated his statements last week that “the issue of hostages is important, but not the most important” in the context of Israel’s goals of its war in the Gaza Strip.

Regarding the broad outlines of a possible deal concluded in Paris and published over the past few days, Smotrich said that he would vote against it in the cabinet. “The negotiations are taking place in a bad way; the next deal must be better than the previous deal in terms of the exchange rate and days.”

In his opinion, the previous prisoner release deal was one with a reasonable equation. “Three saboteurs [sic] for every hostage, and 10 hostages for every day of truce. Logic says that the next deal will be on much better terms, because we continued the military pressure and strengthened it much more, and [Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya] Sinwar should be now sitting in his hole with a feeling of surrender and defeat, and handing us our hostages.”

Regarding the possibility of releasing a large number of Palestinian prisoners as part of a possible exchange deal, Smotrich said: “In our case, this price is unacceptable. We will not flood the streets with terrorists. We did that with Gilad Shalit and now we are paying the price for the consequences.” This was a reference to the prisoner swap deal concluded in 2011 when Hamas freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

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