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Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Political Dilemma

On Sunday, Israel’s finance minister urged Netanyahu not to back down from ground attacks.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right allies are ramping up pressure on the embattled prime minister to reject a new ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, threatening to undermine his government if he withdraws from Rafah’s attack on Hamas. It will jeopardize stability.

Mediators reach cease-fire deal amid threat of Israeli assault on Rafah, an area along the Egyptian border where about 1 million Palestinians displaced by Israeli military operations elsewhere in the Gaza Strip have taken refuge. Representatives from Hamas were scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Monday as they step up efforts to combat the threat.

However, after more than six months of war that began with a cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7, Israel announced that the remaining four battalions of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas had set up trenches there and evacuated civilians before attacking. Announced.

But once a ceasefire is agreed, plans for the attack will be shelved and a “period of sustained peace” will be established, during which dozens of Hamas hostages will be transferred in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, according to people briefed on the talks. is scheduled to be released. .

On Sunday, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was struggling with pressure from international allies to call off plans for the attack due to the high number of civilian casualties and the risk of a humanitarian disaster. He also called for the United States not to back down from the ground offensive against Hamas in Rafah. .

But in a video released to the press and addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Smotrich said a ceasefire would be a humiliating defeat. If Hamas fails to be eradicated, “your government has no right to exist,” he said.

Smotrich was quickly followed by Police Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who reposted on X his January 30 remarks from the previous ceasefire negotiations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and his conservative Likud party have not responded to the minister’s comments. His spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Monday, the Jewish holiday of Passover.

But Benny Gantz, a centrist former defense minister who joined Netanyahu’s emergency war cabinet in October, chided him, saying he prioritized releasing the hostages over attacking Rafah.

Gantz said in a statement that, given the security failures of October 7 and calls for the return of the hostages inside Israel, refusing a responsible agreement that would ensure the release of the hostages would delegitimize the government. He said it would be.

Gantz’s popularity has soared in opinion polls since joining his wartime cabinet, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, together with Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s parties, controls 64 of the 120 seats in parliament. He does not have the power to overthrow the government.

protests against acts of war

Ben Gvir and Smotrich have drawn the ire of the United States even before the Gaza war over their anti-Palestinian comments and policies supporting settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Both parties have a combined 13 parliamentary seats, so either party could dissolve the government.

If that happens, Prime Minister Netanyahu will need to win support from more centrist parties or face elections.

But the vote would pose serious risks to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

A series of opinion polls have proven that his popularity plummeted after Hamas’ October 7 attack, the worst since the Holocaust against Jews and the deadliest single day for Israel. There is. Opinion polls show his current coalition government faces a major electoral defeat.

At the same time, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister is on trial on corruption charges, denies wrongdoing, and faces growing protests over his war effort.

Israeli air and ground combat has destroyed much of the Gaza Strip and forced most of its 2.3 million residents from their homes. However, Hamas has not been defeated, and tens of thousands of Israelis continue to be forced from their homes in the south due to the Hamas uprising in October, and in the north due to daily rocket fire by the Lebanese Shiite Islamic extremist group Hezbollah. It is being said.

About 130 hostages remain in Gaza. A video released by Hamas on Wednesday showing US and Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg Pollin sparked spontaneous protests around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.

Demonstrators lit bonfires, painted their hands red and raised them while shouting, “Let’s all go home!” Police scuffled with some demonstrators and dragged Ben Gvir, who was attending a nearby event, through the crowd while shouting “shame on you.”

Families of some of the hostages have become increasingly harsh towards Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own political survival ahead of the fate of their loved ones. Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly denies this, saying he is doing everything in his power to secure the release of the hostages, but that their release is being blocked primarily by Hamas.

Einav Zangaukar, the mother of Matan Zangaukar, 24, who was abducted from her kibbutz home on October 7, said she would not relent if the government missed this opportunity to forge a consensus.

“You left 133 hostages to rot in Hamas tunnels just to save your seats,” he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)