A possible breakthrough in the kidnapping deal: Israel sends a delegation to the negotiations

Photo Credit: Netanyahu, Meir Elipur. Biden, Wikipedia
Estimates: A possible agreement within two to three weeks. A three-stage deal that includes the release of hundreds of terrorists. Netanyahu: "The war will continue until all goals are achieved."

In a dramatic development in the issue of the abductees, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the departure of the Israeli negotiating delegation, following Hamas’ response to the latest deal proposal. Senior officials estimate that an agreement may be signed within two to three weeks, although they warn that the process will not be simple.

The emerging deal is divided into three stages. In the first phase, which is expected to last six weeks, all the women, the elderly and the sick among the abductees will be released – about 33 abductees alive and dead. At the same time, a temporary ceasefire will come into effect. In the second phase, negotiations will be conducted on the release of the remaining abductees alive, while discussing Hamas’s demand for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza – a demand that Israel strongly opposes. The third stage will include the release of the bodies of the abductees. During the first two phases, hundreds of security prisoners are expected to be released from Israeli prisons, including those defined as having “blood on their hands”. Israel insists on including the kidnapped observer soldiers in the first humanitarian stage, a subject that was controversial in the past.

Sources involved in the process point out that “the main issues are behind us” and that the negotiations now focus on details rather than principles. However, Israel retains the possibility of returning to fighting if agreements are not reached on the second phase, which guarantees it leverage in further negotiations.

The cautious optimism stems from a number of factors: increased international pressure from the US, Qatar and Egypt, Hamas’ understanding that the rift between Israel and the US is not widening as it had hoped, and the failure of Hamas’s hopes to reduce the intensity of the fighting in Gaza.

Closer talks are expected to take place in the coming days, although details regarding the location and rank of the participants have not yet been determined. Also, it is possible to convene a summit with the participation of the head of the CIA and the mediators to promote the deal.

Despite the progress, Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized that “the war will end only after all its objectives have been achieved and not a moment before,” which suggests Israeli determination to continue military activity even after the release of the hostages, if necessary.

Senior security officials said that “our feeling is that Netanyahu wants a deal. They are doing him an injustice when they try to present him as someone who does not want a deal. Netanyahu has so far approved 6 times flexibility in the negotiations. The fear is that there will be elements that will try to torpedo the deal for political reasons, especially from the direction of Ben Gvir and Smotrich. They need to understand that Hamas sees them as a tool in the war and their resistance plays into their hands.”

The White House reported on the conversation between Netanyahu and Biden: “The two talked about the efforts to achieve a ceasefire according to the conditions presented by Biden. The leaders discussed the answer given by Hamas and President Biden welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision to approve the continuation of contacts with the mediators with the aim of reaching a deal.”

These developments mark a critical stage in the efforts to resolve the hostage crisis and may lead to a significant change during the war. The coming days are expected to be decisive in determining the fate of the deal and its consequences for the continuation of the fighting.

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