Far-right minister claims hostage deal throws war goals in ‘trash’ to save hostages

SAM SOKOL

Settlements and National Projects Minister Orit Strock sparked fierce criticism on Wednesday when she rejected the “terrible” hostage deal currently being negotiated in Egypt and said that its approval would be tantamount to a betrayal of IDF soldiers and Israel’s war aims.

There are “soldiers who left everything behind and went out to fight for goals that the government defined, and we throw it in the trash to save 22 people or 33 or I don’t know how many,” the far-right minister told Army Radio. “Such a government has no right to exist.”

Condemning Strock, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid tweeted that “a government with 22 or 33 extremist coalition members has no right to exist,” while Minister Chili Tropper of National Unity, who sits with Strock in the cabinet, accused her of insensitivity toward the hostages.

Whether one supports the deal or not, “the fundamental Jewish precept that ‘whoever saves a single life, it is as if he saved an entire world’ should spare us obtuse and blunt statements regarding the terrible suffering of the hostages and their families, like the words of Minister Orit Strock,” he said.

“The Jewish path is more humane and sensitive to human life than those who sometimes seek to speak on its behalf.”

In a statement, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Strock, declaring that “Israel now needs unity and not division, responsibility and not political populism.”

Protesters block Begin Road in front of the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv as they call for the release of the hostages, April 30, 2024. (Dafi Cohen/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

“There is no place for someone who adheres to an extremist ideology at the expense of human life, and we call on the prime minister to fire Minister Strock immediately,” the watchdog group demanded.

Shir Siegel, whose father Keith Siegel is being held hostage in Gaza, described Strock’s words as expressing “disdain for human life at the highest levels,” in a statement cited by the Haaretz daily.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich addresses the media following a meeting of his Religious Zionism faction in the Knesset, April 30, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

His announcement on Tuesday came shortly after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said, following a private meeting with the prime minister, that Netanyahu had promised not to agree to a “reckless” hostage deal.

Responding to Ben Gvir and Smotrich, National Unity Minister Gadi Eisenkot, an observer in the war cabinet, slammed what he described as political blackmail.

Calling their actions “a serious phenomenon that harms Israel’s national security,” Eisenkot asserted that he “will only be a partner in a government that makes decisions based on the national interests of the State of Israel, and not on political considerations.”

Smotrich hit back at Eisenkot, calling for him to show “a little humility,” and adding that it was his “duty to act against a bad deal that will endanger the security of the citizens of Israel.”

While Eisenkot condemned Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s threats, National Unity leader Benny Gantz earlier this week used similar language, saying that if the government rejects a hostage deal backed by the security services, it will “have no right to continue to exist.”

(Source: Times of Israel)