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Israeli government to debate new Qatari proposal - exile of Hamas leaders and freeing of all captives in exchange for Israeli withdrawal

War Cabinet has not announced a decision on the proposal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a meeting of the War Cabinet, December 16, 2023. (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

A new Qatari hostage deal would see Israel withdraw the IDF from Gaza in exchange for the release of all captives and the exile of Hamas leadership. 

The Israeli War Cabinet was expected to debate the proposal on Wednesday evening, however, no decision has been announced. 

Hebrew media reported that although there were disagreements regarding the proposal in the War Cabinet, the proposal was not rejected outright. Unnamed officials were quoted as saying that Israel would not accept the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip until the Hamas terror organization is eliminated. 

Before the meeting, War Cabinet minister and National Unity party leader Benny Gantz stated that the release of the hostages was the most urgent thing. 

“The most important thing is the return of the hostages," Gantz said. "This has precedence over any move in the fighting. There's no channel we don't work through to bring them back.” 

However, Gantz also reaffirmed that the destruction of Hamas infrastructure is a necessary goal. 

“If we stop, Hamas will regain control,” Gantz said. “We need to keep going. We adhere to our long-term goals – to return the abductees and remove the Hamas threat.” 

The Hostage and Missing Families' Forum said the cabinet should approve any deal that will lead to the release of all the hostages. 

“The reports about a new deal that will be presented to the cabinet tonight give some hope to the families who are anxious about the fate of their loved ones,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “Every day that passes, the condition of the hostages is getting worse.” 

“We demand that the War Cabinet must not concern itself with anything other than the return of the hostages, we demand that they approve any deal that will lead to their immediate release alive!”

In addition to the Qatari proposal, Israel's News 12 reported on Wednesday that Shin Bet officials visiting Egypt also received an updated Egyptian proposal for a hostage deal.

Both proposals include the following elements: the release of captives in stages; a de facto cessation of hostilities; the possibility of exiling Hamas leaders; and the question of Hamas involvement 'the day after' (the war) in Gaza. 

In both proposals, a humanitarian pause would be enforced initially, and the first captives to be released would be civilians, followed by soldiers in the final groups. 

It is not yet clear that Israel would agree to the exile of Hamas leaders instead of their elimination, however, Israel will not agree to a withdrawal from Gaza in exchange for a hostage release. Israel has agreed to a temporary humanitarian pause in exchange for their release, as it did previously. 

While the Israeli government has repeatedly stated that the return of the hostages is a priority, the removal of Hamas leadership and infrastructure is seen as an equal priority. 

In an interview with Maariv news media, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Amir Avivi said that if the Israeli army was forced to withdraw its forces, the mission of eliminating Hamas from Gaza would be impossible to complete. 

“In order to dismantle Hamas in Gaza and destroy all the organization’s terror infrastructure, we need a period of at least two years,” Avivi stated. 

According to reports in Egyptian media, Hamas has rejected both proposals, as the group has consistently rejected any proposal that calls for Hamas to leave the Gaza Strip or be removed from the government. 

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

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