Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel: Far-right ministers threaten to withdraw from government

March 19, 2024 at 1:15 pm

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (L) and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (R) in Jerusalem. [ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel’s Channel 13 said on Monday that two far-right ministers have threatened to withdraw from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over a possible prisoner exchange deal with Hamas. Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that they will carry out their threat if any deal with Hamas includes the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners who were convicted of killing Israelis.

“In light of an Israeli delegation departing to Qatar to hold discussions on the plan to release the kidnapped Israelis,” said the channel, “Ben-Gvir and Smotrich said in closed talks that if dozens of detainees with blood on their hands were released, they would not remain in the government.”

The report noted that there is a lot of support for the emerging deal, including from Mossad head David Barnea, Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, and the coordinator of matters related to the hostages and missing persons, Nitzan Alon. An apparently overwhelming majority of ministers in the cabinet and the government also support the general framework of the deal. Indeed, one minister was cited as saying that, apart from Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, “no opposition is expected” from the cabinet when the exchange deal is proposed. “However, it seems that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not yet reached a decision on this matter.”

READ: Chinese envoy meets Hamas leader for 1st time since 7 October

According to the Israeli channel, there are many points of contention between Israel and Hamas, as the movement is demanding guarantees from Russia and Turkiye as part of any deal that bears fruit, in addition to Qatar and Egypt, which have mediated in the talks so far. Israel rejects this demand.

Moreover, Hamas demands the release of all 48 prisoners who were released in the Gilad Shalit deal and then re-arrested by Israel, while the latter expresses its willingness only to release some of these prisoners and not all of them, according to the same source.

On Sunday night, the Israeli cabinet agreed to authorise an Israeli delegation led by the head of the Mossad to conduct negotiations regarding a new prisoner exchange deal. The delegation arrived in Qatar on Monday evening.

Tel Aviv estimates that there are still 134 Israeli captives in Gaza, while it holds at least 8,800 Palestinians in its prisons, according to official sources from both parties.

READ: Israel minister: Appropriate response to EU sanctions is expanding settlements