update deskIsrael at War

Israeli minister calls terms of hostage deal ‘trash’

Settlements and National Missions Minister Orit Strook said that a government that approves such an agreement "has no right to exist."

Orit Strook, national mission minister and member of the Religious Zionist Party attends a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 8, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Orit Strook, national mission minister and member of the Religious Zionist Party attends a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 8, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israel’s Settlements and National Missions Minister Orit Strook on Wednesday harshly criticized the terms of a hostage deal being negotiated with Hamas in Cairo, calling the deal “trash” and saying that a government that approves such an agreement “has no right to exist.”

Strook, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition from the Religious Zionist Party, made the remarks during an interview with Army Radio.

“Soldiers left everything behind and went out to fight for goals that the government defined, and we are throwing it in the trash now to save 22 people or 33 people, or I don’t know how many,” she said.

“The government went to war with a clear decision on the goals of the war, which were determined by it and are…in a written document: dismantling and destroying all the capabilities of Hamas in Gaza—military, governmental and economic; creating conditions for the return of the abducted; and the removal of any threat from Gaza towards Israel over time. This deal turns its back on all three of these goals, including the goal of creating conditions for the return of the abductees,” Strook continued.

In return for the release of a “small number” of hostages, she said, under the deal Israel will be giving up all its leverage to secure the rest.

After a large number of Gazans are allowed to return to the northern Gaza strip as part of the agreement, resuming the war effort will become impossible, she said, meaning that effectively Israel would be agreeing to permanently end the war in exchange for just a handful of hostages.

As for the rest, “These people will be left behind, and we will have nothing to pay for them,” she said.

With the deal currently on the table, the government is “abandoning the residents of Sderot, all the residents of the Gaza Strip, the residents of the north who live in conditions that are not conditions,” she continued. “[You] expect us to end the war in Gaza and move on to take care of what is happening in the north. You are turning your back on the security of the State of Israel and also on the abductees not included in the current deal. And you actually say that you are satisfied with only 20 or 33 abductees, it doesn’t really matter. It is a promiscuous deal that turns its back on the goals of the war, because of which we sent soldiers to war, some of whom did not return,” she added.

Strook’s comments drew condemnation from the political opposition, with opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeting that “a government with 22 or 33 extremist coalition members has no right to exist.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog also weighed in, saying during a meeting with bereaved families that “there are such and such statements that are not helpful, not for the effort to return the abductees, and certainly do not add a good feeling to the families. I call on everyone to avoid unnecessary statements and allow [the government] these fateful hours and days to manage the effort with responsibility and discretion so that we can see a positive result.”

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