Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin has reportedly signaled his willingness to give up his position in exchange for opposition leader Yair Lapid joining the country’s national unity government, Hebrew media reported on Wednesday night, citing political sources in Jerusalem.
If Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party drops its objections to entering the coalition, Levin has agreed to step down for the duration of the political alliance, Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster and Ynet claimed, with the former citing a “senior minister” in the ruling Likud Party.
A spokesperson for Levin—considered one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest associates in parliament and the architect of the Likud’s now-shelved judicial reform plans—denied the report.
Yesh Atid officials told Ynet that “Lapid is pushing for the rescue of the hostages and their return home, not for the rescue of Netanyahu and his extremist partners.”
The reported proposal came a day after Lapid told Israel’s Channel 12 he would consider entering the government to rescue the Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza, but only if Netanyahu would show the right-wing Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionist parties the door.
Fifty percent of Israelis are opposed to a hostage deal that would see an extended pause in fighting and the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons, according to a Channel 12 poll, and Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir has threatened to bring down the government if it reaches a “reckless” agreement.
Lapid this week announced that his 24 party members would give Netanyahu outside backing in the Knesset to approve a deal to exchange hostages for Palestinian terrorists.
Some 136 hostages remain in Gaza, although dozens are believed to be dead, per official Israeli government figures. Hamas kidnapped around 240 people during its invasion of the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7, in which terrorists also murdered 1,200 civilians.
Citing officials familiar with the negotiations, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Israel has agreed to a framework for a renewed hostages-for-ceasefire deal, while Hamas was considering it.
According to the report, under the deal being discussed, all civilians would be released over an initial six-week period, with soldiers and bodies returned in subsequent stages. Three Palestinian terrorists would be freed from Israeli jails for every hostage. The agreement also includes “a temporary repositioning of Israeli troops away from high-population areas of Gaza.”