War Cabinet meeting canceled amid infighting over Rafah
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the Knesset, March 6, 2023.
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Netanyahu met with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir after the latter threatened to withdraw his party from the coalition.

JNS Staff Report
April 30, 2024

A meeting of the Israeli War Cabinet scheduled for Tuesday evening was canceled amid coalition infighting over a possible hostages-for-ceasefire deal with the Hamas terrorist organization.

The proposal currently being discussed with Hamas reportedly includes significant compromises by Israel and, for the first time, Jerusalem is considering ending the war in the Gaza Strip.

New terms conveyed to Egypt include a willingness to discuss the “restoration of sustainable calm” in Gaza, a demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously dismissed as “delusional.”

A Hamas source told Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya on Tuesday that Israel responded “to some degree” to its demand for a “permanent ceasefire.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu met privately with Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir after the latter threatened to withdraw his party’s six lawmakers from the governing coalition.

“I concluded a meeting with the prime minister [that took place] at my request,” Ben-Gvir said in a video statement posted to X, explaining that he urged Netanyahu to conquer the last Hamas stronghold of Rafah, continue the war and reject flawed deals with the terrorist group.

“The prime minister heard these things, promised that Israel would enter Rafah, promised that the war would not end and promised that there would be no reckless deal,” said the Otzma Yehudit Party leader.

“I think the prime minister understands very well what it will mean if these things do not happen,” Ben-Gvir said.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich skipped a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, instead calling a gathering of the seven lawmakers from his Religious Zionism Party at the Knesset.

“Accepting the deal on the table amounts to the undeniable raising of a white flag and a victory for Hamas,” Smotrich told reporters, calling on Netanyahu not to let Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar “humiliate us again.

“This is exactly what Sinwar planned to achieve when he set out to butcher us — accepting this agreement while postponing the occupation of Rafah is the fulfillment of his victory plan, which is Israel’s surrender plan,” added the finance minister.

Following the faction meeting, Smotrich declared to journalists that he is “ready to pay the political price” to prevent the “existential danger” posed by the return of Hamas terrorists to northern Gaza and the release of murderous Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.

“A government that submits to international pressure, stops the war in the middle, avoids immediate entry into Rafah and returns to Egyptian mediation proposals that leave Hamas existing in any configuration will instantly lose its right to exist,” he said.

On Sunday, Smotrich had already warned that the government headed by Netanyahu will lose its legitimacy to govern if it accepts the “humiliating surrender” proposed to Hamas through Egypt.

In a video message, Smotrich urged the premier to order the Israel Defense Forces to immediately enter Rafah “with all its might.”

Netanyahu on Tuesday claimed that the IDF will be ordered to enter Rafah irrespective of the outcome of the ongoing talks with Hamas.

“The notion that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” said the premier during a meeting at his office in Jerusalem with the Heroism Forum, which represents bereaved IDF families, and the Tikva Forum for Families of Hostages.

The military “will enter Rafah and eliminate the Hamas battalions there—with or without a deal—to achieve total victory,” he claimed.

Netanyahu said he stressed to the families his commitment to achieving “all of the objectives of the war, including the return of all of our hostages.

“We will enter Rafah because we have no other choice,” the prime minister said. “We will evacuate the civilian population so that we can focus on the terrorists, as we have done until now.”

Jerusalem has repeatedly emphasized that telling Israel to refrain from operating in Rafah is equivalent to demanding that it lose the war.

Many of the 133 hostages still in the hands of Hamas more than 200 days after the Oct. 7 massacre are believed to be held in Rafah. IDF special forces rescued two captives from the city in February.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, a member of the broad Security Cabinet, said Saturday that the offensive in Rafah would be suspended if a deal to free some of the hostages held in the coastal enclave is secured.

The War Cabinet has three members — Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz —and three observers: Minister-without-Portfolio Gadi Eizenkot, Shas Party chairman Aryeh Deri and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer.

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