Netanyahu 'Gaza war end' comments under fire from Ben-Gvir, hostage families

Netanyahu 'Gaza war end' comments under fire from Ben-Gvir, hostage families
Netanyahu's latest comments on the Gaza war has seen protests from the families of hostages and anger from far-right Israeli ministers.
3 min read
24 June, 2024
Ben-Gvir wants to see Israel annex Gaza and settle the Palestinian territory with Israelis [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire from the political left and right after hinting at the beginning of the end of the war on Gaza, as tanks rolled into the al-Mawasi refugee camp near Rafah.

On Sunday evening, the premier said the "intense stage" of the Gaza assault was coming to an end with 36,626 Palestinians killed in the eight-month war.

Live Story

His comments were viewed by the left as ignoring the plight of the hostages while the far-right was angered by his apparent ruling out of a full annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir slammed Netanyahu for his comments about scaling back the war without a full occupation and ethnic cleansing of Gaza.

"Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip and encouraging the voluntary migration of the [Palestinian] residents of the Gaza Strip are realistic, and they are the ones that will bring about the realisation of the concept of absolute victory," he said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

"As we settled in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza after 1967, we will be able to do it again in the Gaza Strip after 2024," he said, using a Jewish reference to the occupied West Bank.

Ben-Gvir and his far-right ally, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have both called for settlement expansion into Gaza with Palestinians 'encouraged' to leave the territory, as Israel moves closer to annexing the occupied West Bank.

Gaza was directly occupied by Israel from 1967 until the evacuation of the last Jewish settlements in 2005, but a siege on the territory in 2006 maintained Israel's status as an occupying force, according to rights groups.

Ben-Gvir's comments come after Netanyahu told Channel 14 that Israel could strike a deal with Hamas for the release of some of the 120 captives held in Gaza, 43 of them declared dead, but said he would not allow the group to remain in charge of the enclave.

Activists from the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said that ending the war without bringing home all the hostages would be a "national failure".

"Ending the fighting in Gaza without freeing the hostages would be an unprecedented national failure and a departure from the war's objectives," the group said in a statement.

"The responsibility and duty to return all hostages lies with the prime minister. There is no greater test than this."

The families of the captives and left-wing activists have held frequent protests in Tel Aviv calling for the release of the hostages, while official sources told Haaretz that Netanyahu's recent announcement would be seized upon by Hama and could scupper a broader deal to free all those held in Gaza.

"Netanyahu made it clear [Sunday] that he is not interested in the release of all the abductees – a demand he himself makes to Hamas – and is not willing to provide the concessions that Hamas demands. In a situation like this, Sinwar has no incentive to proceed with a deal," a source told the Israeli daily.

"Sinwar, but also the United States, want to use a deal as a lever to a ceasefire and end to the war. Hamas sees the deal as a means to secure the future of the organisation's senior officials."