update deskIsrael at War

Hostage group ‘shocked’ by some families’ call to join anti-gov’t protests

The Tikva Forum denounced statements by some hostages' relatives calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Protesters at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv call for the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the immediate release of the hostages held in Hamas captivity, March 30, 2024. Photo by Itai Ron/Flash90.
Protesters at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv call for the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the immediate release of the hostages held in Hamas captivity, March 30, 2024. Photo by Itai Ron/Flash90.

The Tikva Forum for Families of Hostages has criticized calls by some hostages’ relatives on Saturday night to join anti-government protests.

The group has been described as a right-wing and religious alternative to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, the main organization representing relatives of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. It consists mostly of religious Zionist supporters of the government.

In a statement issued against the backdrop of some hostages’ relatives announcing on Saturday evening that they will be joining anti-government protests and demanding the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the group said that “a significant number of abductees’ families are shocked by the political activity that the abductees’ families have chosen to act from this evening.”

In addition, the Tikva Forum demands that media outlets reporting on the matter note that “families of abductees” is not a uniform group, and that the anti-government protests do not represent all the families.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators calling for early elections and the release of the hostages being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip took to the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities across Israel on Saturday night in one of the country’s largest protests since the terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre.

For the first time since 253 people were abducted during the Hamas-led attack on the northwestern Negev, some of the families of the 134 hostages remaining in Gaza announced that they will be joining the anti-government protests.

In the nearly six months since Hamas’s bloody invasion of southern Israel, regular rallies have been held at a public plaza in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, organized by a group representing the families of hostages. The plaza was renamed Hostage Square. These rallies were separate from demonstrations against the right-wing and religious government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that have been taking place in a diminished form since the terrorist attack.

However, Eli Elbag, father of hostage Liri Elbag, 19, said on Saturday night it would be the last time a separate protest was held at Hostage Square.

“This is the last Shabbat that we’ll be here,” said Elbag, as quoted by The Times of Israel. “We won’t meet here anymore, we will be in the streets…this is the moment where we turn off the lights.”

A giant screen in Hostage Square called on the rallies to join the larger anti-government protests: “Come with us to Begin [Street] and Dizengoff Street to make our shouts heard. All of them, now!”

Einav Zangauker, the mother of Hamas captive Matan Zangauker, in a speech on Saturday night in Jerusalem called Netanyahu an “obstacle” to a hostage deal.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum called for a deal as soon as possible in a tweet on Saturday.

“We need you with us. A deal is possible. No more delays, no more excuses. We want our family back. #bringthemhomenow,” the post read.

The Tikva Forum supports the continuation of the government’s war efforts to defeat Hamas militarily and return the hostages.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday addressed accusations by some family members of hostages that Netanyahu is an obstacle to an agreement with Hamas.

“The only person responsible for the hostages not returning home is the vile Nazi Yahya Sinwar,” Smotrich wrote, referring to the Hamas leader in Gaza and architect of the Oct. 7 attack.

He added that “all the military and political pressure in Israel and in the world should be directed exclusively towards him. Anything else harms the chance of returning them safely and quickly home and our emerging victorious in the war.”

Smotrich continued: “So too with the demand for flexible positions on our part in the negotiations—as has been proven time and time again, it only makes Sinwar harden his positions even more and pushes the return of the hostages further away.”

“I call on the prime minister to stand firm in the face of irresponsible pressures that endanger the State of Israel and harm the goals of the war,” he said.

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