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Israel's Benny Gantz: We Can Negotiate for Hostages While We Expand the Fighting

The video address delivered today by Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, as reported by the Times of Israel, indicates that he is content to keep riding along with the Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. Gantz said: “Yesterday, we started a military operation in the Rafah area, which will continue and expand as necessary…. At any stage where we can reach an outline for the return of our hostages, we will do so. This task has the highest priority.”

He defended the decision to keep Israel’s top negotiators away from the Cairo deliberations today, saying: “The negotiating team that went to Cairo doesn’t just have a mandate to listen—it has an obligation to turn over every stone and act to bring about an outline. We are all working to make this happen, day by day.” Further, he claimed that “we will never despair and we will never allow political considerations to be brought into this sacred issue…. Our achievements, even if they take a long time to achieve, must be strategic—and the return of our hostages is the first strategic goal, alongside the need to remove the threat of Hamas and make sure that such a threat does not reemerge.” (It may be indelicate to mention this, but Hamas had evidently agreed to disband their military component.)

Otherwise, he allowed for public disagreement with Netanyahu, who had reportedly told Gantz yesterday that the Israelis who had been evacuated from the Lebanese border last October may not be able to return home by September 1. Gantz made his ‘bold’ assertion that their return “before the start of the school year is on the table and will remain on it as long as I am part of the government.”

“Greater Israel” fanatic, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, did his best to make Gantz look good. Smotrich’s statement today read: “Sending the delegation to Cairo is a mistake and falls into the manipulative trap set by Hamas together with Qatar and Egypt. This is the time to press more and more on the neck of Sinwar and Hamas until they are destroyed.” There must be more military action. “You must not give in to international pressure and you must not stop until victory and the submission of the enemy.”