Israel minister threatens to topple government over any ‘foolhardy’ Gaza deal

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Two far-right Israeli ministers threatened on Saturday to quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government if he goes ahead with a hostage release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden.

Biden said on Friday that Israel had offered a new roadmap towards a full ceasefire including the release of hostages held by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

But Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said they would quit his government if the deal went ahead.

For the latest updates on the Israel-Palestine conflict, visit our dedicated page.

Ben-Gvir threatened to bring down the coalition government if Netanyahu enters a Gaza deal that would entail ending the war without the elimination of Hamas.

Such a deal would be “foolhardy, constituting a victory for terrorism and a threat to Israel’s national security,” the ultranationalist head of the Jewish Power party said on X.

Ben Gvir said his party would “dissolve the government” if the deal went through and slammed the proposal as “a victory for terrorism and a security risk to the State of Israel.”

“Agreeing to such a deal is not total victory -- but total defeat,” he said.

Smotrich said he would “not be part of a government that will agree to the proposed outline.”

“We demand the continuation of the war until Hamas is destroyed and all hostages return,” Smotrich said on X, adding that he opposes the return of displaced Gazans to the territory’s north and the “wholesale release of terrorists.”

Earlier on Saturday, Netanyahu insisted that the destruction of Hamas was part of the Israeli plan laid out by Biden.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid vowed to offer Netanyahu “our safety net for a hostage deal if Ben Gvir and Smotrich leave the government.”

Without Ben Gvir’s and Smotrich’s parties, Netanyahu’s coalition could lose its majority in parliament.

Thousands of Israelis meanwhile rallied in Tel Aviv to demand acceptance of the ceasefire and hostage release deal outlined by Biden, with many fearing the premier would disown the proposal.

“I hope that somehow Biden puts enough pressure so the government and Netanyahu will take the deal,” protester Diti Kapuano, 46, told AFP.

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The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

At least 36,379 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israeli bombardments and ground offensive since October 7, according to the health ministry in the territory.

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