The Israeli PM said he will not withdraw the army from Gaza or free thousands of Palestinian prisoners, as he vowed to continue the war until Hamas is defeated and the hostages are freed
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out the freeing of thousands of prisoners or pulling troops out of Gaza as part of any hostage-exchange or cease-fire deal with Hamas, as he reiterated that Israel won’t conclude its war against the militant group without achieving all of its goals: eliminating the Iran-backed group, securing the return of all remaining hostages and ensuring that Gaza will never again constitute a threat to Israel.
Netanyahu made the remarks in a televised address on Monday, in response to the latest proposal by Egypt, Qatar, and the UN, which have been mediating between Israel and Hamas to end the nearly four-month-long war in Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 people, mostly civilians, and displaced nearly 90% of Gaza’s population, according to the UN.
The proposal, which was reportedly discussed by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz in Cairo on Sunday, involved a phased and reciprocal process of de-escalation, humanitarian relief, prisoner exchange, and political dialogue, according to media reports.
The proposal also included a ratio of 100-250 Palestinian prisoners for each Israeli hostage, as well as a gradual and conditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, according to the reports.
However, Netanyahu rejected the proposal, saying that it was unacceptable and unrealistic, and that it would only reward and encourage Hamas, which he accused of being a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel and to commit genocide against the Jewish people.
No Going Back
“We will not withdraw the IDF (army) from the Gaza Strip, and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” Netanyahu said.
“We will continue to fight until we achieve our goals: to eliminate Hamas, to free our hostages, and to ensure that Gaza will never pose a threat to Israel again,” he added.
Netanyahu said that Israel has made significant progress in the war, and that it has destroyed most of Hamas’ infrastructure, weapons, and tunnels, and that it has killed or captured many of its leaders and operatives.
Netanyahu also said that Israel has been working tirelessly and discreetly to locate and rescue the hostages, who are estimated to number around 240, including three Israeli soldiers and two civilians, who were abducted during the Hamas-led rocket barrage on southern Israel on Oct. 7, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis, the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
Netanyahu also said that Israel has been cooperating and coordinating with the US and the international community, which have provided military and economic assistance and support to Israel, as well as humanitarian and development aid to the Palestinians, and which have been trying to broker a peaceful and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the two-state formula.
Netanyahu also said that he appreciated and respected the efforts and the roles of Egypt, Qatar, and the UN, which have been mediating between Israel and Hamas, and which have been delivering relief and assistance to the victims and the survivors of the war.
Netanyahu also said that he was willing and ready to engage and negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, which is the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people, and which has been sidelined and weakened by the war, and which has expressed its willingness and readiness to resume the peace talks with Israel, in exchange for a statehood recognition and a settlement freeze.
Netanyahu also said that he understood and sympathized with the pain and the frustration of the families of the hostages, who have been demanding more action and pressure from the government to secure the release of their loved ones, and who have staged several protests and rallies in recent weeks.
However, he said that the protests were counterproductive and harmful, and that they only emboldened and empowered Hamas, which he said has been raising and changing its demands and conditions, and which he said has been mistreating and abusing the hostages.
Netanyahu urged the families of the hostages to trust and support the government and the state, and to refrain from any action or statement that could jeopardize or complicate the mission and the goal of freeing the hostages and ending the war.
Netanyahu also expressed his sorrow and regret for the loss and the suffering caused by the war, and he offered his condolences and his apologies to the innocent and the affected civilians, on both sides.
Netanyahu also reaffirmed and reiterated his commitment and his desire to end the war and to achieve a peaceful and a harmonious coexistence with the Palestinians, based on the mutual recognition and the respect of the rights and the aspirations of both peoples, and on the principles and the resolutions of the international law and the UN.