What Palestinians want from the West Bank: Israeli demands for the return of hostages, missing persons, and their families vs. Israel’s demands
TEL AVIV, Israel — Shmuel Brodutch sits under a tent outside Israel’s military headquarters every day now, with one demand of his leaders: to strike a deal with Hamas for the release of his three young grandchildren and daughter-in-law.
“There will be no pause without the return of hostages and missing persons,” Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said in a written statement to The New York Times this week. The only way of saving the hostages is if Israel continues their ground operation.
In 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a swap with Hamas, releasing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel in exchange for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas in Gaza for five years.
One of the released prisoners in that swap is now the head of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, whom Israel accuses of helping mastermind last month’s attack.
Yet a recent Israeli opinion poll found nearly two-thirds of Israelis surveyed support a prisoner exchange. There was no overwhelming opposition in another poll.
“If the army will go to free them, a big percentage of them will be dead. I don’t want to get my grandchildren back as corpses,” Brodutch said of his grandchildren, who are four, eight and 10 years old.
“I miss my brother with all my heart, but we know that a ceasefire and prisoner exchange is destructive for our children’s future,” and could lead to another Oct. 7 style attack, she said in a recent video.
A big advocacy effort was formed by a group of Israelis’ family and friends. The group has been careful not to adopt an official position on how Israel should secure their release.
“We are not trying to tell the government how to do that,” said Grosbard, whose colleague was taken hostage. “We just want them to come home.”
The families of loved ones who have died in Israeli military actions in Gaza are ramping up their pressure on the Israel government, accusing them of not keeping a priority on the release of their loved one.
There are around 6,700 inmates in Israel who are held on security offenses. Qadoura Fares is an official in the West Bank who oversees prisoners’ affairs and he said that there were about 560 life sentences for the killing of Israeli civilians and soldiers. He said some 65 women and 250 minors are among them.
Yohanan Plesner, director of the Israel Democracy Institute, called it the “most despicable murderers that massacred and killed Jews for decades.” For the first time, we’ve never dealt with such a situation of innocent Israelis and children being held in captivity.
He thinks Israelis will be willing to go far in order to get them released, even though it’s not part of the goal of dismantling Hamas.
Israel had delayed its ground attack to give some time for the hostage negotiations to be completed, according to two of the officials. It decided to move forward, even though the talks were stalling, because it figured that Hamas would bow to military pressure and give up control of Gaza.
On Oct. 7, Palestinian attackers penetrated towns and military bases in southern Israel and killed roughly 1,400 people. They also took about 240 captives back to Gaza, including civilians and Israeli soldiers.
Israel has prevented fuel deliveries into Gaza, claiming that Hamas uses it for its rocket attacks and that it has stockpiled fuel meant for civilians. But aid organizations have said that fuel is one of the biggest needs in Gaza, to keep everything from hospitals to bakeries running.