Pressure Mounts on Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel Battles on Multiple Fronts to Secure Hostages

Pressure Mounts on Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel Battles on Multiple Fronts to Secure Hostages

Families of Gaza hostages and their supporters march towards PM Netanyahu's residence, blaming his government for their loved ones' fate

With Israeli flags waving and posters of hostages adorning their backs, families of Gaza hostages, along with thousands of their supporters, marched through the outskirts of Jerusalem towards the home of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of them hold his government responsible for the fate of their loved ones. Starting five days ago in Tel Aviv, this march aims to exert pressure on Netanyahu and his government to prioritize the safe return of the nearly 240 individuals who were kidnapped by Hamas during their violent attack on Israel on October 7.

Many relatives are outraged that only a select few families have had the opportunity to meet with the Israeli leader following the attacks. Gil Dickmann, whose cousin Carmel Gat was abducted, expressed their desire for him to address them and take appropriate action. He emphasized the importance of prioritizing the release of hostages in the Israeli war cabinet's plans. Considering the current political climate for Netanyahu, this has the potential to be a significant success for both Israel and the Prime Minister personally.

Cracks emerge

Despite continued overwhelming support in Israel for the war on Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, national favor toward Netanyahu and his governing coalition is collapsing as Israels war in Gaza drags past its sixth week, with winds shifting against the prime minister. Multiple opinion polls suggest this shift in sentiment.

Initially, opposition parties showed support for Israel's war effort, with National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz even becoming part of the wartime government. However, divisions are starting to surface.

On Wednesday, Yair Lapid, the opposition leader, stated that it was now necessary for the six-term prime minister to step down. Lapid urged Netanyahu's Likud party to remove him from power, although he stopped short of calling for new elections. Instead, Lapid suggested that Likud should present a different leader as an alternative.

"We cannot allow ourselves to have a prime minister who has lost the publics trust, whether from a social or a security point of view," Lapid told Israels Channel 12.

Pressure Mounts on Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel Battles on Multiple Fronts to Secure Hostages

Ada Gansach (left) said she was there to represent the Thai, Nepalese, Filipino and other foreign nationals who were abducted by Hamas in this photo taken November 18 near Jerusalem.

Tara John/CNN

An unruly cabinet

Israel, Hamas, and the United States, with mediation from the Gulf state of Qatar, have been engaged in negotiations to resolve several contentious issues surrounding a temporary pause aimed at facilitating the release of hostages.

Several sources familiar with the talks have identified a number of sticking points to be addressed, such as the duration of the potential ceasefire, the release of hostages, and Hamas' demand for Israel to cease the operation of surveillance drones over Gaza. The recent attempts to alleviate the burden on the civilian population living in the besieged enclaves have faced criticism from Netanyahu's conservative governing cabinet, noted as the most right-wing in Israel's history.

After the approval by Israel's war cabinet on Friday for two fuel tankers to enter Gaza daily in order to provide assistance to the water and sewage systems, members of the far-right within the governing coalition expressed intense anger, believing that these actions amounted to concessions to Hamas without any agreement in place for the release of hostages. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in a letter posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), informed Netanyahu that this decision contradicted the opinions of the governing cabinet, which is distinct from the war cabinet.

His colleague, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, took to social media at approximately the same time stating that "unless the Red Cross visits our abductees (hostages), providing the enemy with humanitarian gifts is meaningless," while regarding it as an affront to soldiers, the bereaved, and the families of the missing and kidnapped individuals.

Hostage negotiations

Some families are urging the government to take into account a proposal put forth by Hamas, known as the "everyone for everyone deal." This proposed agreement entails trading the hostages for the release of all Palestinians presently detained in Israeli prisons, estimated to be approximately 6,630 individuals according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

Pressure Mounts on Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel Battles on Multiple Fronts to Secure Hostages

On November 18, 2023, the procession of family members, friends, and supporters of Israelis and individuals of different nationalities who were held captive by the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas successfully reached Jerusalem.

Despite potential concerns in the present circumstances, back in 2011, an exchange of prisoners took place which involved the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

A number of individuals participating in the Saturday march expressed their support for a similar action. Asher Elyahol stated that he was not concerned about the means or the required resources to secure the return of the hostages. He believed that freeing hostages from Hamas was worth it, regardless of the cost.

Ada Gansach, who informed CNN of her presence to advocate for the Thai, Nepalese, Filipino, and other foreign nationals taken captive by Hamas, stressed the urgent need for the release of all hostages as a unified collective.

She emphasized that distinguishing between nationalities, gender, or the status of being an Israeli soldier should not be considered.

Blame falls on Netanyahu

Despite their efforts to remain apolitical in their ongoing campaign, the families of hostages held the opinion that Netanyahu was to be blamed for the tragic murder of 1,200 people, as he had failed to foresee the Hamas attack.

According to Ofir Dagan, the prime minister of Israel has failed to be adequately prepared for the assault due to his focus on judicial reform, making him the one with the greatest responsibility. Dagan also mentioned that she was acquainted with Yehudit Waiss, who was recently found dead in Gaza according to the Israeli military. The October 7 attack is widely perceived as a violation of Netanyahu's commitment to ensure the security of Israeli voters, particularly after presenting himself as the sole guardian capable of protecting the country in its continuous conflicts with neighboring nations.

Despite the tragic outcome in the search for Waiss, Dagan expressed optimism that other families could still find solace in being reunited with their missing loved ones.

Following the tragedy, critics pointed out Netanyahu's alleged lack of empathy, with observers of Israel's actions noting that he devoted more time to photo opportunities with troops near Gaza than addressing past shortcomings.

Last month, he faced severe backlash for accusing security chiefs of neglecting to inform him about the imminent attack, in a social media post that has since been deleted. Netanyahu issued an unusual apology and reiterated his unwavering support for Israel's security leaders. However, he avoided addressing responsibility for the security shortcomings on October 7 when questioned by CNN.

Elyahol expressed his belief that Netanyahu lacks a connection with the general population. He expressed his desire for a new government once the war concludes and the hostage situation is resolved.