All Israel

Coalition ministers and war cabinet ministers spar over Rafah operation and hostage deal

Right-wing coalition members threaten government if Rafah operation is canceled

Israeli Minister Gadi Eisenkot holds a press conference with Head of the National Unity party Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 26, 2024. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Coalition cabinet members Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, in recent days, have threatened to leave the coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if the IDF's ground operation into Rafah is canceled. 

Their threats now appear to have been met by counter-threats from war cabinet ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, who have proclaimed that freeing the hostages, without committing to end the war, must be the government’s priority.

On Tuesday, Smotrich, Israel's finance minister, skipped a cabinet meeting, instead hosting a party faction meeting, where he claimed that the current hostage deal being negotiated contains “strategic concessions that endanger the State of Israel.” 

Among the concessions reported are the return of Gaza's residents to the northern Gaza Strip without undergoing Israeli security checks, and a temporary ceasefire of up to one year. 

“A government that submits to international pressure, stops the war in the middle, avoids immediate entry into Rafah and returns to Egyptian mediation proposals that leave Hamas existing in any configuration, will at that moment lose its right to exist,” Smotrich stated at the Religious Zionism party meeting. 

The finance minister's comments echoed statements made in a video posted to his 𝕏 account, where he addressed Netanyahu, saying: “If you decide to fly a white flag and cancel the order to conquer Rafah immediately to complete the mission of destroying Hamas and restore peace for the residents of southern Israel and all of the country’s citizens, and return our abducted brothers and sisters who are held hostage to their homes – then the government you head will have no right of existence.” 

Ben Gvir, Israel's national security minister, made a similar comment, claiming that a “reckless deal equals the dissolution of the government.” 

In a video statement, Ben Gvir said he warned the prime minister.

“I warned the prime minister if, God forbid, Israel does not enter Rafah, if, God forbid, we end the war, if, God forbid, there will be a reckless deal,” Ben Gvir said.

Gantz, one of the main opposition party leaders, reportedly joined Israel's war cabinet last year to ensure the war effort would continue after polls at the time revealed diminished support for some coalition parties. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Gantz emphasized that securing the hostages' return must be the government's primary objective, attributing the potential collapse of the government to opponents of a deal involving hostages.

“If a responsible outline is reached for the return of the hostages with the backing of the entire security establishment — which does not involve ending the war — and the ministers who led the government on October 7 prevent it, the government will have no right to continue to exist and lead the campaign,” Gantz said in a statement. 

Eisenkot, who serves as an observer in the war cabinet, agreed with Gantz and accused some cabinet members of “political extortion,”an apparent rebuke of Smotrich and Ben Gvir. 

“In the past day, two cabinet members have been using political threats to commit extortion. This is a serious phenomenon that harms Israel’s national security. I will only be a partner in a government that makes decisions based on the national interests of the State of Israel, and not on political considerations,” Eisenkot posted on his Facebook page. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told a group of IDF soldiers that he is committed to freeing the hostages and eliminating Hamas. 

“In Gaza, we are obligated to eliminate Hamas and also to return the hostages. We are working on these two tasks and I am determined to accomplish both things,” Gallant said. “It will take as long as it takes, but we must do this task.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

All Israel
Receive latest news & updates
    A message from All Israel News
    Help us educate Christians on a daily basis about what is happening in Israel & the Middle East and why it matters.
    For as little as $5, you can support ALL ISRAEL NEWS, a non-profit media organization that is supported by readers like you.
    Donate to ALL ISRAEL NEWS
    Popular Articles
    Latest Stories