Haredi Parties Cynically Using the Hostages and Netanyahu’s Reluctance for War

יושב-ראש ועדת הכספים חבר הכנסת משה גפני, 8.6.2021. צילום: נועם מושקוביץ, דוברות הכנסת
MK Moshe Gafni, 8.6.2021, Photo by Noam Moskowitz, Knesset Spokesperson

If Benjamin Netanyahu thought there was a fair chance of emerging victorious from an all-out war with Hezbollah, he would have embarked on such a move and simultaneously gone to the elections.

Despite the horrors of October 7thn – 1,400 were murdered, 120 hostages are still in Gaza; despite the burning north and hundreds of thousands of evacuees, Netanyahu’s coalition is stable overall. None of its members want to dismantle it, certainly not Netanyahu.

The proof of this is the recent decision of the ultra-Orthodox parties to “support a deal for the release of the hostages.” After eight months and the needless death of dozens of hostages in Gaza, the ultra-Orthodox parties suddenly remembered the importance of the mitzvah of “Pidyon Shvuim” – redeeming of hostages.

This is, of course, not accidental. It is an attempt to pressure Netanyahu and threaten the stability of his coalition without having to publicly declare that the crisis is actually about the draft law for the ultra-Orthodox, the exemptions they are trying to obtain for their voters. Because it doesn’t look good publicly, certainly not in wartime, certainly not at a time when reservists are torn and have been serving for many months at the expense of their jobs and family. It is better to cynically utilize something that generally has public consensus, such as the release of the hostages, but something that Netanyahu is not interested in.

Some believe that Netanyahu will choose to break up this coalition over the “Draft Law” of the ultra-Orthodox. I don’t see that happening. I don’t see Netanyahu voluntarily disbanding the coalition for any reason. They will find a solution that will “satisfy” everyone. Instead of 3,000 ultra-Orthodox who will be “recruited,” they will decide on 9,000 ultra-Orthodox who will be “drafted”(not really). That will allow them to declare: “We recruited three times more than the original number.” And this crisis will be behind them.

As for the deal, Netanyahu is not interested in the release of the hostages who remain alive because this means the end of the quasi-war in Gaza and the dissolution of his government. The extreme-right Smotrich and Ben Gvir will not be able to sell to their voters why we left Gaza and why we released hundreds of terrorists.

In short, there will be no deal under the current government, and the hostages who are still alive (in my estimation, less than a quarter of the numbers being talked about) are in daily danger. It is with great pain that I write the following words – it is doubtful that most of them will survive. But we could have saved most of them. We can still save them. 

And the same is true for Hezbollah. Netanyahu did not go to war because he does not think there is a reasonable chance he can come out a winner. Netanyahu will try to create a “deterrent” move to convey that he has done “something.” But it is likely to be not much more than the drone Israel launched in Iran in response to 350 Iranian missiles and drones.

The fact is the citizens of Israel are all hostages. Unfortunately, the demographics and brainwashing campaign of the last 15 years will make it very difficult to change this, even in an election.

About the Author
Attorney, former communications director for the Israeli government, lobbyist, strategy, former reporter for Galei Tzahal and Haaretz, former Shaliach to the US, CEO of The Israeli TV & Film Producers Association, Campaign manager for several parties and incumbents. Led several social causes, organizations, causes and unions. Life-long volunteer and student.
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