Netanyahu: No withdrawal from Gaza or freeing many terrorists for hostages
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Bnei David pre-military academy in Eli in the Binyamin region of Samaria, Jan. 30, 2024. (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened to bring down the government if it reaches a “reckless” agreement with Hamas.

JNS Staff Report
January 30, 2024

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pledged not to free large numbers of Palestinian terrorists or withdraw troops from Gaza as part of a hostage deal with the Hamas terrorist organization.

“We will not withdraw the Israel Defense Forces from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” Netanyahu told students and staff during a visit to the Bnei David pre-military academy in Eli in Samaria’s Binyamin region.

“I hear talk about all kinds of deals. I would like to make it clear: We will not conclude this war without achieving all of its goals. This means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel,” the premier said.

Established in 1988, Bnei David is the oldest and one of the largest religious Zionist pre-army institutions in Israel. Some 40% of its students have gone on to become officers in the IDF, and since Oct. 7, 14 of its graduates have been killed fighting Hamas terrorists.

Netanyahu’s remarks came as Israel’s national security minister, Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, in a tweet, threatened to bring down the government if it reaches a “reckless” agreement with Hamas.

His tweet came amid apparent progress in talks on an agreement to free the 136 captives remaining in Gaza whom the terrorist group abducted during its Oct. 7 attack on the northwestern Negev.

In an apparent response to Ben-Gvir’s tweet, opposition leader Yair Lapid wrote on X that his Yesh Atid Party and its 24 Knesset members would give the government full backing for a deal to free the hostages.

“In the last 116 days, I met with dozens of families of abductees. I promised them and I repeat my promise: We will give the government a safety net for any deal that will return the abductees to their homes and families. This is our commitment to the abductees and their families, this is our commitment,” Lapid wrote in a lengthy series of tweets.

Qatar-based Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday that the terrorist group would study a proposal received from negotiations between the interested parties in Paris on Sunday, adding that he would visit Cairo for talks on the initiative.

Haniyeh said that the priority for Hamas is an end to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and a withdrawal of all troops from the coastal enclave. The demand to end the war runs counter to Israel’s stated goal of destroying the terrorist group.

According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, the Paris meeting was “defined as constructive.” However, “there are still significant gaps which the sides will continue to discuss at additional mutual meetings to be held this week.”

Mossad chief David Barnea, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Ronen Bar and Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Israel Defense Forces’ point man for hostage negotiations, met with Qatari and Egyptian mediators at the Paris talks.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Abbas Kamel, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, and CIA Director William Burns also participated in the meeting.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that discussions are currently focused on a ceasefire for a period of up to two months in exchange for the staged release of more than 100 hostages. In addition to pausing its military campaign against Hamas, Israel would have to agree to commute the prison sentences of an unspecified number of Palestinian terrorists.

According to Saudi-owned Al-Hadath TV, the parties reached a “breakthrough” on Sunday for a two-month ceasefire-for-hostages deal, under which Israel reportedly also agreed to allow more aid into the Gaza Strip.

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