After a long night of deliberations, the Israeli government approved on November 22 a OK concerning the release of a number of hostages and a four-day truce with Hamas.
What are the exact provisions of this text, and what are the foreseeable consequences of its implementation?
What does the text of the agreement say?
Qatar played a major role in the negotiations leading to the adoption of this document, which provides for the gradual release of 50 to 80 Israeli women and children held in the Gaza Strip – between a fifth and a third of the 240 hostages who were kidnapped on October 7 during the Hamas attack during which 1 200 Israelis were killed.
In return, Israel agreed to a ceasefire of at least four days, interrupting its offensive aimed at crushing Hamas' military and political capabilities. Additionally, at least 150 Palestinian women and minors will be released from Israeli prisons, and Gazans will receive increased amounts of humanitarian aid and fuel.
The adoption of the agreement posed a dilemma for the Israeli government. Indeed, he gave the Gaza war two main objectives: to dismantle Hamas as an operational terrorist organization, and to ensure the release of as many hostages as possible. It therefore comes, at least temporarily, to give priority to the second of these objectives to the detriment of the first.
The IDF wanted to maintain pressure on Hamas on the ground. However, it was clear that the fighting had to be suspended so that the hostage agreement could be implemented. Additionally, Israelis resent the fact that the deal only applies to women and children, not civilian men and soldiers. This provision offers Hamas the possibility, in the coming days, of using the remaining hostages to obtain new ceasefires and new concessions from Israel.
Netanyahu in difficulty
This is not the first time that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an IDF veteran, has approved a prisoner exchange agreement. He was already in charge in 2011 when Israel released more than 1 prisoners in exchange for a single Israeli soldier,
Several protests organized in Israel since October 7 have called on the government to prioritize the release of the hostages. During these gatherings, massive and full of emotion, the families of the kidnapped people also encountered Netanyahu and other members of the current emergency government, centrists Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, both former army chiefs of staff and previously part of the opposition.
Israeli public opinion showed strong and sincere solidarity in response to the October 7 attacks. However, no one has forgotten to what extent society was divided not long ago. Millions of people have manifested for months against the controversial project to reform the judicial system promoted by Netanyahu's right-wing government. At the same time, members of the ruling coalition had fiercely attacked and ridiculed army reservists who had threatened to refuse to join their barracks if the reform plan was not abandoned.
As long as the confrontation between Israel and Hamas lasts, Netanyahu will probably not be forced to leave power. Those close to him argued that, at a time when the country is at war, partisan politics should be put aside. Yet it quickly became clear that the prime minister was refusing to take personal responsibility for Israel's failure to prevent the carnage of October 7, despite having been in power for most of the past XNUMX years. years, and that he never managed, during this entire period, to deal effectively with Hamas.
Many criticize him for allowing Qatar to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to the Gaza Strip governed by Hamas, this money undoubtedly having been employed by Hamas to equip itself with a real army at the gates of Israel.
A commission of inquiry, which should be created as soon as hostilities end, will most likely put Netanyahu and his political partners in the hot seat for their role in exacerbating internal conflicts. A few months ago, a senior intelligence official warned that these tensions within Israel were seen as a weakness by Israel's enemies and as "the expression of a linear process which will result in the collapse of Israel".
No early elections… for now
Nobody wants elections as long as the fighting continues. Overthrowing the government today would be legally complicated. The negotiations and backroom intrigues within the Likud aimed at replace Netanyahu have given nothing so far.
Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the Jewish Power party, which is part of the right-wing coalition that has supported Netanyahu since the November 2022 legislative elections, voted against the adoption of the hostage agreement. He publicly warned against this text, calling it a serious error and an admission of weakness. After the war, he could seek to distance himself from the Likud leader and bring down the government.
In Israel, the general feeling is that Netanyahu's days in power are numbered. However, the Prime Minister, now 73 years old, has proven time and again that it is not wise to bet against him...
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