Israeli delegation to Cairo hopes for a ‘change of direction’ in hostage deal

Egypt has said that it will cancel its objection to the IDF’s operations in Rafah if Hamas refuses to soften its demands in a hostage deal. 

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

An Israeli delegation is preparing to go to Cairo next week to discuss a “change of direction” in the hostage release negotiations with hopes for a “shift in stance” on Hamas’s demands which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “delusional.”

The delegation will include Mossad director David Barnea, Shin Bet Head Ronen Bar, and retired Major General Nitzan Alon, and will meet with CIA head William Burns, Egyptian Intelligence Director Abbas Kamel, and the Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani.

According to an Israeli official, the discussions will focus on strategies Egypt and Qatar will use to pressure Hamas to back off from its extreme demands and to agree to something more in alignment with the original Paris framework deal negotiated last month.

The original proposal would create a pause in fighting for a few months and the release of hostages in stages in return for an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza and Israel agreeing to free Palestinian prisoners in exchange.

However, in response, Hamas said they would only free hostages if Israel agreed immediately to a permanent ceasefire, to withdraw all troops and surveillance from Gaza, and 1,500 Palestinian prisoners released, including hundreds who are serving life sentences for murdering Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the demands “delusional” and said he would refuse to agree to any hostage deal that involved a permanent ceasefire.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Egypt has said that it will cancel its objection to the IDF’s operations in Rafah if Hamas refuses to agree to a more moderate hostage deal.

According to Axios, Israel’s war cabinet was drafting a response to Hamas’s demands on Thursday stating that Israel rejected Hamas’s main demands, but it may compromise on removing troops during the pause in fighting from highly populated areas in Gaza rather than withdrawing them entirely from the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s response also refused the demand to “lift the siege over Gaza” and said the number of Palestinian security prisoners Hamas was demanding was too high and that the release of “heavy” prisoners, meaning those who had murdered Israelis, would only be released at a later phase of the deal.

On Saturday night, protests were held in Tel Aviv with demonstrators demanding immediate elections and criticizing the Netanyahu government’s handling of the war with Hamas, particularly in regard to hostages.

Some protestors held signs calling for the release of hostages at any price, although much of the Israeli public believes that Israel shouldn’t agree to a hostage deal that would forfeit its goals of eliminating Hamas.

According to one poll, 40% of Israelis said hostages should be released even if that meant conforming to Hamas’s extreme demands where as 60% of Israelis said they believed the war should be continued until Hamas is eliminated even if that meant that not all hostages would go free.