Saturday, May 4, 2024

Did Benjamin Netanyahu Scuttle an Early Deal for the Hostages?

In a recent edition of the Times of Israel, I found this article:



The article outlines the actions taken by Haim Rubinstein, a media advisor who previously worked for former Member of the Knesset, Ofer Shelah and as a member of the Yesh Atid political party's media team for four elections, immediately after the Hama attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023.  


According to Rubinstein, he met with the families of the hostages on October 8th, and ultimately, he became the cofounder of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum:



The Hostages and Missing Families Forum focuses on bringing all of the hostages back to their families and "offers the families holistic medical and emotional support as well as professional assistance, and advances the ongoing efforts locally, regionally and globally". Members of the Forum include the family members and friends of the hostages as well as top security, law, media and diplomacy experts who are volunteering their time to aid in the recovery of the missing Israelis.  The group notes that they are using diplomatic and legal channels to raise public awareness about the hostage crisis.  The aforementioned Haim Rubinstein was the group's original spokesman and announced that he was stepping down as spokesman for the group in early March 2023 to spend more time with his family and because of what he felt was political interference in the Forum, taking on the role of strategic advisor:


Let's go back to the recent story in the Times of Israel.  In the April 26th edition of the Times as I provided above, Rubinstein is interviewed about his experiences over the past six months.  Here are some interesting exchanges with my bolds throughout:


Question - Did you work with Gal Hirsch or with the Prime Minister’s Office? (On October 8, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Hirsch to act as the coordinator between the families and the government. Rubinstein contends that, at the time, Hirsch’s team didn’t have comprehensive information regarding the number of hostages.)


Answer - Gal Hirsch only began functioning after two or three weeks. Until then, there was no one to talk to. I don’t know what his contribution was. As far as I can tell, he just held the microphone in meetings with the families. He told them they shouldn’t hold protests [to push for their loved ones’ release].


You need to understand that Netanyahu set up Hirsch’s team because the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t want there to be an external body criticizing the government for its conduct surrounding the hostages.


Question - Did you feel like the government was ignoring you?


Answer - Absolutely. No representative of the government or the IDF had updated the families of the hostages that the IDF was beginning its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. We couldn’t understand how it could be that the families weren’t getting updated on the ramifications this could have for them.


Question - How did you deal with this?


Answer - On that day, October 26, I called on the families to come to Hostages Square in Tel Aviv. At the assembly, we announced that the prime minister and the defense minister must meet the families, but there was no response to that from Netanyahu’s or Yoav Gallant’s offices.


So we said that if we didn’t get an immediate response, the families would camp outside the Kirya IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.


After that, Gallant promised in a statement to meet the families the next day. We told him we weren’t willing to wait. That evening, Netanyahu’s office announced that he would meet the families’ representatives.


Here is the key exchange:


Question - What was the atmosphere like? (at the aforementioned meeting with Netanyahu)


Answer - We left the meeting very disappointed because Netanyahu talked about dismantling Hamas as the goal of the war. He didn’t promise anything regarding the demand to return the hostages. He merely said a military operation in Gaza was needed to serve as leverage for the hostages’ release.


We later found out that Hamas had offered on October 9 or 10 to release all the civilian hostages in exchange for the IDF not entering the Strip, but the government rejected the offer.


Rubinstein also notes that the first hostage deal took place 53 days after the beginning of the war but that the second deal has taken over 200 days to complete for the following reason:


"The main reason is the prime minister’s refusal.... There is no doubt that Netanyahu is preventing a deal. Netanyahu knows that if he goes to elections at this time he won’t be able to form a new government, and he is motivated by cold political considerations."


Rubinstein states that he believes that the moment the hostages are released, far-right members of the coalition government Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir will claim that the price paid for the release of the hostages was too high, thus collapsing Netanyahu's current coalition government.


Think about this for a moment.  According to Haim Rubinstein, Benjamin Netanyahu chose political survival over making a very quick deal to free all of the hostages just days after they were taken by Hamas.  Surely Washington must have been aware of this and, if not, why not?   One would have to wonder why President Biden and his minions are choosing to back Israel's murder of over 34,000 Palestinian civilians and supply Israel with billions of dollars worth of weapons to fight this war if, indeed, the war was not necessary in the first place....unless Israel just wants to eliminate Gaza and expand its own boundaries yet again and members of Congress don't want to alienate their backers in Big Defense.

But you won't hear this in the North American or European mainstream media, will you?

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