Middle East

Israeli opposition leader Gantz tells Netanyahu he will back any prisoner swap deal with Hamas

Opposition leader Benny Gantz assures Prime Minister Netanyahu of his party's backing for any agreement ensuring return of Israeli captives from Gaza

Abdelraouf Arnaout  | 05.07.2024 - Update : 06.07.2024
Israeli opposition leader Gantz tells Netanyahu he will back any prisoner swap deal with Hamas


The leader of the Israeli opposition party National Unity, Benny Gantz, conveyed on Friday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his party’s backing for any agreement that would facilitate the return of Israeli captives held in Gaza.

Gantz's office confirmed that he spoke with Netanyahu by phone to discuss the framework for returning the Israeli captives from Gaza under the new proposed agreement with Hamas, according to Israeli Army Radio.

The office said in a statement that Gantz’s party “will provide full backing to any responsible deal that will lead to the return of the hostages.”

The “Unity of the Nation” party, represented in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), could provide crucial support for the agreement’s approval.

The backing could come from the party’s seats in the Knesset if the agreement is put to a vote for approval, the statement added.

Gantz’s stance comes amid renewed threats from Itamar Ben-Gvir, Minister of National Security and leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, and Bezalel Smotrich, minister of Finance and leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party.

The two have repeatedly threatened to withdraw from Netanyahu’s government if any agreement with Hamas is reached.

According to the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, Ben-Gvir directly told Netanyahu during a Cabinet meeting, “If you make decisions unilaterally, it’s your responsibility, and you’ll be left alone.”

Smotrich has also publicly stated that he will not support the agreement.

Official Israeli reports indicate that indirect negotiations between Tel Aviv and Hamas have resumed, focusing on a prisoner exchange and a cessation of hostilities in Gaza.

In light of these developments, David Barnea, head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, traveled to Doha, Qatar, for meetings with mediators brokering the prisoner exchange and cease-fire deal.

As of Friday, neither Israel nor Hamas, nor the mediators, have disclosed the Palestinian movement’s response, which was conveyed to the mediators and relayed to Israel on Wednesday.

Egypt, Qatar, and the US have been trying for months to secure a truce and the release of the 120 remaining hostages in Gaza, but to no avail.

Hamas says any deal must end the war and bring a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel, however, argues it will accept only temporary pauses in the fighting and wants to end the governance capabilities of the resistance group.

Israel, flouting a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire, has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Palestinian group Hamas.

More than 38,000 Palestinians have since been killed, mostly women and children, and over 87,000 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Nearly nine months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lie in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water, and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered it to immediately halt its military operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

*Writing by Mohammad Sio

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