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‘Remove the radicals and I’ll enter the government,’ Lapid tells Netanyahu

Yesh Atid leader offers his support for ‘difficult’ hostage release deal

Head of opposition and head of Yesh Atid party Knesset Member Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 5, 2024. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid reiterated his offer to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to support a hostage release deal, according to his statement after their routine security update meeting on Monday.

The Yesh Atid party leader had offered to “give the government a safety net for any deal that brings the hostages back home,” after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had threatened to quit the government in the event of a 'bad' deal.

"I told him, 'Listen... this is not for media purposes, I'm telling you seriously, remove the extremists and I'll enter," Lapid said. "I will step in instead of the extremists to allow a prisoner deal because it is the highest duty to bring them home.''

“I told the prime minister – I don’t care about ministries, I served as foreign minister, I served as finance minister, I served as prime minister. I care about one thing only – returning the hostages, and if he needs a security net of any kind – that we enter the government, from outside the government, in any way – he should just say so,” Lapid said in a video statement after Monday’s meeting.

Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have repeatedly threatened to oppose a deal that would free thousands of convicted Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Lapid had publicly supported some organizations representing the families of hostages who are demanding the return of the 136 Israeli hostages “at any price.”

However, in an interview on 103 FM Radio, Lapid hinted that Netanyahu might not want to lose his two controversial coalition partners and perhaps even hopes they will threaten to quit in order to torpedo the deal.

“It doesn’t seem like he wants to say goodbye to Smotrich and Ben Gvir, in my eyes this is particularly dangerous. He (Netanyahu) is trying to create a situation for Israeli society, what do you support – victory or the hostages? And if you are for victory then you are against the hostages,” Lapid said.

“This is a completely distorted picture, the return of the hostages is the victory, there will be no military victory without the return of the kidnapped,” he added.

Lapid added: “The Israeli government abandoned its citizens, and did not protect their safety. We need another government here that will protect its citizens.”

The latest hostage deal negotiations were kickstarted with a high-level meeting in Paris at the end of January. CIA Director William Burns was joined by Israeli Mossad Chief David Barnea and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, as well as the prime minister of Qatar and the Egyptian intelligence minister, who are serving as mediators.

Since then, Israel has awaited Hamas’ response to its proposal. On Monday, a Hamas source told Israel's Channel 12 news that Hamas will provide an answer soon but affirmed that the group will insist on an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, along with firm guarantees for the cessation of hostilities.

Lapid concluded his interview by saying, “It’s a difficult deal, I won’t go into the details on the radio, I’m just saying let’s remember where our first commitment is. It’s a deal we won’t like, it doesn’t mean we have a moral option to leave them in the Hamas tunnels.”

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

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