Israel again offers exile to Hamas heads in Gaza as part of ceasefire deal – report

This is the third time Jerusalem has made the proposal, said CNN.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel has again offered exile to Hamas heads in Gaza as part of a ceasefire deal that would bring back all the hostages still remaining in the terrorists’ hands, CNN reported Monday, citing two officials “familiar with the ongoing international discussions.

The proposal was made despite bellicose Israeli declarations that all Hamas fighters, and especially their chief, Yahya Sinwar, are “dead men walking,” and that all top men, such as Mohammed Deif, his deputy Marwan Issa, and Sinwar’s brother Mohammed, are actively being sought in their hiding places in Gaza.

This is the third time that such an offer has been made, according to the report’s sources. The first occasion was in Poland in December, when Mossad director David Barnea met with CIA chief Bill Burns and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani of Qatar.

Doha is acting as the primary intermediary with Hamas, having its ear as one of its major financial backers and yet also hosting the biggest American naval base in the Middle East.

The second time was earlier this month, when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned it in his own meeting with al Thani. He was told it “would never work,” said the official, partly because Hamas didn’t trust that Israel would actually stop the war after their top leadership was escorted out.

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Another reason could be that Sinwar and his close coterie know that they would still be targets if they left, since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced some two months ago that the state’s security agencies would hunt them down anywhere in the world and the Mossad has already set up a special unit to do so.

Media reports said that hostages’ families who met with al Thani ten days ago had also proposed the hostages-for-exile-and-ceasefire idea.

According to Aaron David Miller, who advised six secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations ending in 2003, and is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a CNN analyst, there are several reasons for Israel’s softened position.

These include the fact that the IDF is “not achieving their military objectives,” three and a half months into the war, he said, and “hostage families are beginning to exert tremendous influence.”

The IDF would reject Miller’s position, as its heads have repeatedly stated that its soldiers are advancing according to a thought-out plan of action that is taking into account the necessity of repelling Hamas forces from both above and below the ground. Time is needed, for example, to deal safely with the hundreds of miles of tunnels and thousands of tunnel shafts have been discovered throughout Gaza.

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Israel has also estimated that its forces have killed over 9,000 Hamas combatants and wounded thousands more, taking them out of action, which is over a third and perhaps as much as half of the terror organization’s fighting force.

Miller was correct in stating that there is massive pressure on the government coming from those who believe it is more important to get the hostages back alive than to win the war, and are demanding that the government pay any price necessary. This, despite all the recent polls that have shown that a vast majority of Israelis believe that military pressure on Hamas is the best way to get them released.