newsIsrael at War

Half of Israelis oppose proposed hostage deal with Hamas

The first phase of the agreement reportedly under consideration would see women, children, wounded and sick captives freed in exchange for a 45-day ceasefire and the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists.

Hadassah Lazar speaks during a special conference to mark International Holocaust Day at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Hadassah Lazar speaks during a special conference to mark International Holocaust Day at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Fifty percent of Israelis are opposed to a hostage deal that would see an extended pause in fighting in Gaza and the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists, according to a snap poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 12 on Tuesday.

Just 35% overall support the terms of the potential agreement, with the rest undecided.

Among Netanyahu coalition voters, only 12% support the deal compared to 75% against, while among opposition-bloc voters, 53% are in favor versus 32% opposing.

The proposal reportedly under consideration would see the phased release of all 136 Israeli hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza. The first stage would include the freeing of women and children, as well as men over 60 years of age and captives who are wounded or sick, totaling some 35 to 40 people. There would be a 45-day halt to combat operations in the Strip during the initial stage. In addition, thousands of Palestinian terrorists, including murderers, would be released from Israeli prisons.

Members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad release Israeli hostages to the Red Cross in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.

In the second phase, male soldiers and civilians under 60 would be released, while in the third stage, Hamas would release bodies.

These stages would come in exchange for a ceasefire of as-yet-undetermined length, along with the release of more Palestinian security prisoners.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Israel has agreed to parts of the proposal while Hamas was considering it, citing officials familiar with the negotiations.

According to the Post report, all civilian hostages would be released over an initial six-week period, with soldiers and bodies returned in subsequent stages. Three Palestinian terrorists would be released from Israeli jails for every hostage freed by Hamas.

The agreement also includes “a temporary repositioning of Israeli troops away from high-population areas of Gaza.”

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

“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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Bnei David pre-military academy in Eli in Samaria, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

Qatar-based Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday that the terrorist group would study a proposal received following talks in Paris on Sunday, adding that he would visit Cairo to discuss the initiative.

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 during the Paris talks, which were described by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office as “constructive.”

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.

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.

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

However, opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted that his Yesh Atid Party and its 24 Knesset members would give the government full backing for a deal.

Israelis against humanitarian aid to Gaza

The proposal on the table also reportedly calls for a massive increase in humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, something the Israeli public is overwhelmingly against, according to the Channel 12 survey.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said that humanitarian aid to Gaza should be stopped until the hostages are freed, with just 21% wanting it to continue.

Daily protests have been taking place near the Kerem Shalom border crossing since Jan. 24 against the flow of humanitarian aid into the Hamas-controlled enclave. 

Israeli security forces stand guard while people protest against aid trucks entering the Gaza Strip, at the Kerem Shalom crossing, Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Hundreds of demonstrators, including relatives of those murdered or kidnapped during Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and of soldiers fighting the terror group in Gaza, showed up on Monday despite a military closure imposed by Israel. Four demonstrators were arrested for violating the closure.

Hamas is stealing much of the aid intended for Gazan civilians and redirecting it to terrorists hiding in tunnels.

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