Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in the Knesset, December 19, 2022.

On Sunday, we reported that the IDF is pulling all its forces from the southern Gaza Strip before the promised final attack on Rafah that was supposed to deliver the elimination of Hamas, whose leadership is believed to be hiding underground in that border city. And despite the statements from the entire security establishment and his uncle that this is in line with the IDF strategy, everyone from Pakistan to Jamaica knows this was the result of President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken stepping on Netanyahu’s neck.

Many in the coalition government were pleased with the news, believing that the IDF withdrawal would be followed by the release of the hostages – at least some of them. But it remains to be seen whether Hamas has any impetus to release anybody at this point, with the entire world supporting it and with the administration not giving a hoot for the fate of the hostages.


Only two ministers in Netanyahu’s government are standing up to the sentimental rush to embrace the hostages – many of whom are presumed murdered by their captors. Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich are demanding more clarity from the PM – clarity he may not be so invested in providing.

Ben Gvir issued a short and simple statement on Monday: “If the prime minister decides to end the war without an extensive attack on Rafah to defeat Hamas, he will not have a mandate to continue serving as prime minister.”

Mind you, this wasn’t a threat, it was an unbiased presentation of reality as most of us on the right view it.

Smotrich issued a less cutting, lengthier statement, in a letter he sent the PM:

“Following the current situation of withdrawing the maneuvering forces from Gaza and lowering the intensity of the war in general, while delaying the entry into Rafah for very long weeks, together with the reports of Israel’s willingness to discuss the return of the residents of Gaza to the northern Strip, and in practice to bring about an end to the war, and in addition, the news about granting a very extensive mandate to the negotiations teams, I demand that you convene a special debate of the expanded cabinet this evening, where we will receive a full update and all the information on the state of the war.

“The only forum authorized to make decisive pronouncements in time of war is the expanded cabinet, but unfortunately that’s not how things work and we see that decisions are being made by the limited war cabinet without approval from or updating of the expanded cabinet, under international pressures that harm the momentum of the war and our security interests.

“I have been warning for weeks that instead of taking our foot off the gas we should increase the pressure on Hamas in Gaza, and this is the only way we can return the abductees and destroy Hamas.

“That’s why I repeat my demand to convene the expanded political cabinet this evening for an urgent discussion of this issue.”

Sources in the coalition parties told Ynet on Monday that there’s a feeling Netanyahu is “stretching out the war” and does not intend to keep his promises to “destroy Hamas” and reach “total victory.”

An official in one of the right-wing parties said Monday morning that “we should hope that Netanyahu understands that without Rafah he will not be prime minister,” reflecting Ben Gvir’s statement almost word for word.

Family members of the hostages reacted sharply to the two religious Zionist leaders’ statements and rebuked them for forgetting the value of freeing captives (pidion shvu’yim). For the record, our sages have set limits on the price Jewish communities are allowed to pay to free hostages, so the gentiles do not realize that they can raise the price of freeing Jews indefinitely.

Also for the record: this is exactly the lesson PM Netanyahu taught Hamas with the October 18, 2011 Gilad Shalit deal, releasing 1,027 security prisoners, many with Jewish blood on their hands, in exchange for one soldier.


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