National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir blasted a potential deal under which hostages held by Hamas in Gaza would be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and warned that such a deal would end with a ” disaster.”
Speaking to Channel 14 on Tuesday, the minister, who heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, addressed reports that Israel was close to finalizing a deal that would see around 50 people – most likely mothers and children – freed from Gaza, where they are. have been detained for more than six weeks, along with some 190 others.
“I am very upset because they are now talking about some kind of agreement,” Ben Gvir, who is a security cabinet minister, told the media outlet. “I am troubled because we are once again divided and once again we are not being told the truth. And once again we are left aside. Rumors say that the State of Israel is once again going to make a very, very big mistake in the style of the Shalit agreement.”
“You remember that we released Gilad Shalit, that we let (Yahya) Sinwar and his friends out and that we caused these problems,” added Ben Gvir.
The deal discussed by Ben Gvir took place in 2011 and saw Israel release 1,027 security prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006 while serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
Among those released under the deal were Husam Badran, a senior Hamas member who now serves as the terror group’s spokesperson in Qatar, and Yahya Sinwar, who leads Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Sinwar is considered one of the main organizers of the October 7 attack in southern Israel, in which at least 1,200 people were killed and some 240 were kidnapped.
Of those taken hostage on October 7, four have since been released by Hamas, and another, Ori Megidish, was rescued by the IDF. Two other hostages were killed by Hamas inside Gaza, and their bodies were recovered by the IDF during the ongoing ground offensive.
Although the exact details of the potential hostage deal are unclear, some reports have said Israel would agree to a temporary ceasefire in exchange for the release of women and children, while others suggested that Israel would additionally release a limited number of Palestinians. prisoners, probably also women and minors.
On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed that “we are closer than ever before” to finalizing the deal. An Israeli official corroborated the statement Tuesday morning on Channel 12.
After telling Channel 14 that the supposed deal would “lead us to disaster,” Ben Gvir criticized Israel’s war cabinet, made up of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Without Portfolio Benny Gantz , who joined the government. at the start of the war to join the war cabinet. In addition, MP Gadi Eisenkot is an observer in the cabinet.
“There is something else, and this is the concept that guides the war cabinet… they talked about an agreement of 80 (hostages), reduced it to 70, then to 50,” Ben Gvir said. “They said they wouldn’t let food in, and then after that they said they wouldn’t let fuel in, and now they have fuel.”
Ben Gvir also criticized the cabinet for last week’s decision to allow limited but regular fuel deliveries to enter the Gaza Strip for the first time since October 7.
“I ask how we can allow this. How can we send a drop of fuel there when we know that there is no Red Cross that examines babies, children, women? This is idiocy! It’s crazy! Unfortunately, Gantz and Eisenkot are leading the cabinet down the wrong path,” he concluded.
Since the formation of the war cabinet, Ben Gvir and his far-right ally, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have called for the war cabinet to include additional ministers from the coalition.
On Monday, Smotrich, who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry, demanded that the cabinet be expanded to include politicians “who have been shouting for years against this conception, who demand the elimination of Hamas, including the conquest of the Gaza Strip. , in order to eliminate its threat against the State of Israel.
Family members of hostages held in Gaza have spoken out against far-right ministers and their attempts to adopt policies they say could harm their loved ones in Gaza.
On Monday, several family members attended a session of the Knesset National Security Committee where they pleaded with Ben Gvir not to propose legislation allowing the death penalty for terrorists.
The death penalty has only been imposed twice in the Jewish state’s history, most recently during the execution of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann in 1962.
Speaking at the committee hearing, Gil Dickmann, a cousin of Carmel Gat who was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, pleaded with Ben Gvir, whose Otzma Yehudit party is responsible for the legislation , and said that if passed, the hostages could be further harmed.
“I already asked you last week and begged you to stop. I begged you not to make us or our suffering,” Dickman said through tears. “If you see us, please take this off the agenda.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.