It is not the first time that the prime minister has said he would not approve a permanent cease-fire, but the families and the war cabinet were still caught off guard when Netanyahu floated a partial hostage retrieval deal during his first Israeli television interview since Oct. 7 ‘who do we leave behind? Who is worth more?’ 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara met with a second group of families of hostages and fallen soldiers on Sunday evening, after they met with another group on Thursday. The meeting lasted about two and a half hours and, according to those present, was extremely difficult, painful and emotionally charged.

It extended beyond its scheduled time as the prime minister adjusted his agenda to allow every family member who wished to speak to do so. According to one attendee, he “gave no hint” of what he would say hours later.

Hostage families at the Knesset hearing
(Photo: Sheila Fried)

On Television, Netanyahu for all intents and purposes, rejected the current proposal on the table for a deal with Hamas – the deal he approved and that was presented to the world by U.S. President Joe Biden. He said that there would be no deal since the end of the war is at the heart of the differences between Israel and Hamas.

“People spoke from the depths of their hearts. We tried to understand how he plans to bring everyone back. The prime minister gave no hint of what he would say later that evening in an interview with Channel 14,” said Ruby Chen, father of First Sergeant Itay Chen, who fell in battle on October 7 and whose body is held in Gaza. Channel 14 is a privately owned right-wing TV channel known for its sympathetic view of Netanyahu.

Chen referred to Netanyahu’s statement that he is willing to consider a partial deal “that will bring back some of our people,” which led to outrage among the families of the hostages. “We tried to understand several times through follow-up questions how he is making an agreement that doesn’t give in to Hamas and doesn’t stop until they are collapsed, but on the other hand, how to reach a deal,” Chen added.

Chen continued, “I told the Prime Minister, ‘Close your eyes and go back to 1976, to the funeral of Yoni Netanyahu. Look not at yourself, but at your father and mother. It was a state funeral, and they had a shiva, and a 30-day memorial, and a grave to visit. Look me in the eyes and ask me: Where was I on the last Memorial Day?’ I don’t know if it touched him. It was a difficult and charged meeting because this is the toughest group, as their loved ones are considered fallen and, according to reports, they come last, and for them, a partial deal won’t bring their loved ones back.”

Wants a ‘partial deal’?
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

Regarding Netanyahu’s statements in the interview, Chen said: “He gave a hard feeling and a sense of disunity and spoke of ‘us and them.'” Families of hostages and fallen soldiers from Nir Oz asked the prime minister to visit the kibbutz and told him it is essential for him to see with his own eyes and that it is “a terrible mistake that he has not visited until today.” Netanyahu replied that he has already toured the Gaza border region and the Gaza Strip itself and would also visit Nir Oz.

Netanyahu has stated since Biden publicly announced what he said was an Israeli-proposed cease-fire and hostage deal, that he would only agree to a temporary cease-fire until Hamas is completely eradicated.

Earlier, Shimon Or, the uncle of hostage Avinatan who is held in Gaza, spoke at a meeting of the Finance Committee and said: “Tell the truth, say there will be no deal. When you say there is no deal and we won’t leave Gaza without the hostages – they will understand it’s not worth holding the hostages. Tell us the truth – there will be no deal and we won’t send delegations. We need leadership that will be honest with us.”

Gil Dickman, cousin of hostage Carmel Gat, also spoke at the committee meeting. He explained: “This morning we are really confused. We don’t understand, have they given up on all the hostages? It turns out now that the deal you supported, Shas and United Torah Judaism, has one opponent. Netanyahu. There is no half-way deal.”

Yotam, the brother of soldier Nimrod Cohen, who was kidnapped by Hamas, added: “My brother was kidnapped from the tank in uniform, and since then he has been in captivity. The prime minister talked yesterday about a partial deal – forget about Hamas not agreeing to this. In a partial deal, who do we leave behind? Who is worth more? His cousin or my brother? Who do we leave and who do we bring back? Who is more Zionist? How do we check that? They are rotting there. Doesn’t that interest you?”

Efrat Metsikva, niece of hostage Gadi Moses, addressed Netanyahu’s comments on Monday morning, explaining to Ynet that she was angry about his statements. “He speaks in slogans,” she added.

“He wavers. He says both A and B, and in the morning he probably met with some families and told them something else,” she said. “I think, as we are taught in our value system, that the truth eventually comes out – the truth came out. I think it’s true, it’s not his priority. He always tried to hedge and maybe say it’s this way and maybe something else, and then he retracts and says all kinds of confusing things. But the cat is out of the bag.”

Gadi Eisenkot
(Photo: Moti Kimhi)

Metsikva added: “We hear that our leader has had the power for eight months to bring them home, and he does not intend to do it. We do not intend to give up. I cannot think of any other possibility than that Gadi and all the people there, including the murdered ones, come home. The nation needs them here for our revival. And to tell us they are giving up on them after eight months is simply unbearable, and not according to the moral values we grew up with and that the State of Israel represents.”

Nadav Miran, brother of Omri, who was kidnapped by Hamas, said: “I was disappointed by that statement, although he also reiterated several times that he is committed to bringing back all 120 hostages. However, such a statement, that he is willing to consider a partial deal, essentially opens up the possibility that they are not going to try hard to bring back all 120.”

Einav Zangauker, mother of kidnapped soldier Matan, criticized Netanyahu. “The prime minister gave up on the hostages, he decided to bury them along with the State of Israel. Netanyahu is not aiming to topple Hamas, but to topple Israel – his words and actions are tearing Israeli society apart, damaging diplomatic relations and efforts for a hostage deal. He has no intention of saving them. Instead of ending the war and addressing the situation in the north, he prefers to drag out the war, which serves him. For Israel’s survival, Netanyahu needs to be removed from office.”

Eisenkot surprised by Netanyahu ‘partial deal’ approach

At the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting Monday morning, Knesset lawmaker Gadi Eisenkot (National Unity Party) addressed the prime minister’s recent statement. “As someone who sat in the war cabinet until just two weeks ago, I can confirm that all our discussions focused on only two alternatives: either an ‘all for all’ single-phase deal or a comprehensive three-phase deal. This is what the cabinet unanimously voted on, making the Prime Minister’s recent mention of a partial deal contradictory to the war cabinet’s decision. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue or just a thought,” Eisenkot said.

“I believe this requires clarification given the emotional turmoil it’s causing the families of the hostages,” Eisenkot added. “The harm here is significant: failing to achieve a key war objective severely damages Israel’s national resilience. Soldiers are currently fighting with the goal of bringing the hostages home, so an immediate clarification from the Prime Minister about his intentions is crucial.”

Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein supported Eisenkot.”I don’t know the basis for the prime minister’s comments. What the committee recognizes is what you’ve detailed,” he said.

As reported by Ynetnews