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Coalition woes: Right-wingers threaten to leave Netanyahu coalition over impending hostage deal

Ben Gvir threatens to leave government, Likud members demand urgent meeting

Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu with Jewish Power head Itamar Ben Gvir at a vote in the Knesset assembly hall in Jerusalem, Dec. 28, 2022 (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

As the decision over a new hostage deal is reportedly imminent, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from the right wing of his coalition over fears that a truce would severely impact – or end – the war effort.

Six members of Netanyahu’s Likud party, including a minister, sent a letter to the prime minister demanding an urgent faction meeting to discuss the deal, Channel 12 news reported.

As part of the proposal currently under consideration, Israel would agree to a six-week truce, a gradual withdrawal of the last troops remaining in the Gaza Strip, and the release of around 900 prisoners, including 100 convicted murderers, in exchange for 40 Israeli hostages.

Such a deal “may have a dramatic effect on meeting the stated goals of the war,” Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli and Knesset Members Boaz Bismuth, Moshe Saada, Dan Illouz, Tally Gotliv, Ariel Kellner and Amit Halevi, wrote in the letter.

“The Israeli government, under your leadership, has set clear goals for the war, chief among them removing of any security threat from the Gaza Strip, eliminating Hamas’s military and governance capabilities in the Strip, and the return of all the hostages,” they wrote.

“Our forces have achieved some of the objectives and dealt a serious blow to Hamas’s capabilities, but the work is far from over.”

“In view of the possibility of a deal emerging, … we see the importance of having a factional discussion that will allow us to understand the guiding principles for the outline and the next stages of the campaign,” they added.

On Monday, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had already threatened to leave the coalition, writing on 𝕏: “If the prime minister decides to end the war without an extensive attack on Rafah to defeat Hamas, he will not have a mandate to continue serving as prime minister.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also wrote an angry letter to Netanyahu, demanding to convene the security and political cabinet immediately to discuss the deal and possible implications in the larger forum instead of the five-member War Cabinet.

“I demand that you convene a special discussion of the expanded cabinet this evening where we will receive a full update and all the information on the state of the war,” Smotrich wrote, criticizing Netanyahu for taking important decisions without consulting the broader cabinet.

“I have been warning for weeks that instead of taking our foot off the gas we should increase the pressure on Hamas in Gaza, and this is the only way we can return the abductees and destroy Hamas,” Smotrich added.

In response to Ben Gvir and Smotrich, Lapid reiterated his offer to support the government to bring about any deal that would free Israeli hostages.

“I’m reminding the Prime Minister facing his messianic partners: Yesh Atid is ready to provide at any given moment a full safety net for a hostage deal. 24 votes is much more than Ben Gvir and Smotrich have. It's time to bring them home! Now!”

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

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