Feb 7, 2024 - World

Netanyahu: Israel won't give into Hamas' "delusional" hostage deal demands

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 16, 2023. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that caving to Hamas' "delusional" ceasefire demands won't lead to the release of the hostages still being held in Gaza, but instead to another attack like the one the militant group committed on Oct. 7.

Why it matters: It was the first time Netanyahu commented on Hamas' response to a recent hostage deal proposal since it was given to Israel on Tuesday. While dismissing Hamas' demands, Netanyahu didn't close the door to negotiations, however.

Catch up quick: Qatar and Egypt presented Hamas with a framework for negotiations for a three-phase deal late last month after mediators met with U.S. and Israeli officials.

  • Under that framework, the first phase would include a six-week ceasefire and the release of a set number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas freeing 35 to 40 Israeli hostages, including women, men over the age of 60 and those with serious medical conditions, according to Israeli and Qatari officials.
  • The terms of the following two stages hadn't been agreed on but the second phase was expected to include the release of Israeli soldiers and civilian men under the age of 60 from captivity in Gaza.

Driving the news: Hamas' response to the hostage deal proposal was delivered to Israel on Tuesday through Qatari and Egyptian mediators. It included a demand that Israel release thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including those who were sentenced to life in prison for the mass murder of Israelis, in several stages, according to press reports and Israeli officials.

  • Israeli officials said Hamas asked for the release of all women, children under the age of 18, and men over the age of 50 who are held in Israeli prisons. The third group included most of Hamas' detained senior leadership.
  • Hamas also demanded the release of 1,500 additional prisoners aged 18-50 who were convicted of killing Israelis. The group wanted to pick 500 of them, including those sentenced to life in prison.
  • Israeli officials said Hamas also demanded that Israel allow Palestinian civilians to return to their homes during the first phase of the deal and for a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the second phase of the agreement.

What they're saying: Netanyahu called Hamas' demands regarding Palestinian prisoners "crazy."

  • "The continuation of military pressure is a basic condition for the release of the hostages," Netanyahu said in a press conference after meeting with Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
  • "Capitulating to Hamas' delusional demands will not lead to the release of the hostages but only invite another massacre and another catastrophe for Israel," Netanyahu said, adding that he told Blinken that Israel is "at arm's length from a total victory."
  • "There needs to be a process of negotiations through the mediators but from what I see in Hamas' response — they are not there," he said.
  • When he was asked whether Israel rejects Hamas' response, he dodged the question and asked the reporter, "Wouldn't you?"

Yes, but: Blinken said in a press conference later Wednesday that while Hamas' demands include several nonstarters, the U.S. believes the group's response to the proposal creates space for an agreement to be reached.

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials said that by the time Netanyahu did his press conference, Israel hadn't given any formal response to the mediators.

  • A senior Israeli official said Israel will tell the mediators Hamas' response is a nonstarter but ask them to press Hamas to agree to a more reasonable framework that will allow serious negotiations on a hostage deal.

What to watch: A Hamas delegation is expected to visit Cairo on Thursday for more talks regarding the hostage deal, Egyptian media reported.

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