OpinionIsrael at War

To get a deal, families of the captives must change their tune

If the families of the captives are the ones to pressure the government to stand firm against Hamas's demands, we will likelier be closer to a deal.

Families of Israelis held captive by Hamas in Gaza protest for a hostage release deal, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Feb. 29, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Families of Israelis held captive by Hamas in Gaza protest for a hostage release deal, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Feb. 29, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.

Over the past several weeks, almost without realizing it, we have seen a frustrating trend in which the media report optimism on a possible hostage deal being within reach or even imminent, or that Hamas has been showing flexibility. This has generated great expectations, only to be let down time and again after discovering that these are untrue reports that get disproved rapidly, because of the refusal and crazy positions of the Palestinian terrorist organization.

Again, and again—the emotional rollercoaster and disappointment of the families, and anyone whose heart goes out to the captives, hit hard.

It seems the time has come to break this cycle by changing the paradigm. Hamas has put forth impossible demands in part because it feels boosted by the sentiment among Israelis, which is shaped, to a large degree, by most of the media, as well as by many of the captives’ families. They pressure the government to compromise more and more to save the lives of their loved ones and bring about their release.

But every time Israel attempts to respond positively to Hamas requests, the result is an even tougher set of demands. Despite not seeking to do so, the families’ pressure on the Israeli government has only enabled Hamas to up the ante time and again.

There is no nice way to say this, but it must be said: Hamas banks on the families and the heavy pressure they exert on the government. Without meaning to do so, the families have caused Hamas to put forth a laundry list of demands that have nothing to do with realistic negotiations. 

Most of the media has embraced the families’ every move and endorsed the pressure they have put on the government, both in public and in the political arena. The result is that the deal has been moving farther away instead of getting closer—against the wishes of the families, the media, and all of us.

Another significant factor that interferes with the negotiations, sometimes delaying and even reversing them, is the constant publication in the media of every change and shift, sometimes even the slightest shifts, in the negotiations and positions of the parties. This reporting often unintentionally damages Israel’s conduct in the negotiations. It would be better if nothing was published, even under military censorship, and if we the public were kept in the dark as long as the negotiations move forward rather than have reports of “one step forward, two steps back.”

If the families of the captives—even though it will be very difficult for them—change their tune, if they are the ones to pressure the government to stand firm against Hamas’ brazen demands and even explicitly state, “not at any price”—there is a chance that Hamas would retreat from its maximalist positions. If Hamas realizes that even the families of the captives understand that demands to withdraw from the Gaza Strip or completely stop the war are non-starters, a new kind of negotiation process could emerge.

At the same time, a change is also needed in the media’s tune. When the media gives just as much coverage, in breadth, depth, and airtime. to families opposing a deal with such price tags (there are dozens of those) as it currently gives to families pushing for a deal at hugely inflated prices, we will likely be closer to a deal that will have a more reasonable and saner price.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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