Israeli hostage families gain clout as political landscape shifts

2024.02.05 06:56

By Emily Rose and Estelle Shirbon

JERUSALEM/LONDON (Reuters) – When pollsters requested a consultant pattern of the Israeli public in January to call anybody they wish to see coming into politics, family of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza had been among the many names that cropped up most frequently.

The beforehand unreported survey, seen by Reuters, reveals the families’ attraction to Israelis who wish to see political change, at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reputation is at all-time low.

This is a part of a wider transformation of Israel’s political landscape precipitated by the Oct. 7 Hamas assault, and more likely to speed up when probably the most intense section of the Gaza battle ends and a reckoning for the safety failures of that day begins.

“The hostage protests are a pivotal point for other types of protests against the government to emerge,” stated Nimrod Nir, political psychologist on the Truman Research Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which performed the survey.

One of the names talked about by respondents was Gil Dickmann, a cousin of hostage Carmel Gat and an lively determine within the Hostages Families Forum marketing campaign group.

Another was Jonathan Shamriz, whose brother Alon was considered one of three hostages mistakenly shot lifeless by Israeli forces in Gaza on Dec. 15, and who has change into an outspoken authorities critic.

“I will do what I need to in order to fix this country. If that means going into politics, then I’ll have to see,” he instructed Reuters.

Some respondents didn’t point out names however wrote variants of “hostage families”, reflecting the impression of the Forum itself and its “Bring them home now” marketing campaign.

Hamas militants killed 1,200 individuals in southern Israel and kidnapped 253 of their Oct. 7 incursion, based on Israeli tallies. Israel has responded with an all-out navy assault on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that has killed greater than 27,000 Palestinians there, based on native well being officers.


The Forum and most particular person family of hostages have been attempting to keep away from partisan politics or confrontation with the right-wing coalition authorities whereas the lives of their family members grasp within the steadiness.

“Our struggle right now is not a political struggle,” stated Elad Or, whose brother Dror is in Hamas captivity. Dror’s spouse Yonat was killed. The couple’s two teenage kids had been held hostage till Nov. 25 after they had been freed throughout a quick truce.

Mirroring the restraint of the families, who encourage big public empathy, Netanyahu has largely averted overtly criticising them, though frustrations have mounted on either side.

Protests by family exterior his home have irked Netanyahu. He lashed out throughout a Jan. 27 information convention that such actions “only strengthen the demands of Hamas”.

During the week-long truce in late November, Hamas freed greater than 100 Israeli and overseas hostages in trade for Israel releasing about 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Since then, the problem of what worth Israel ought to pay to get the greater than 100 remaining hostages again, and methods to steadiness that aim towards its different said battle goal, to destroy Hamas, has change into more and more polarising.

Negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a ceasefire and hostage deal, mediated by Qatar and Egypt and backed by the United States, are ongoing however the end result is unsure.

Netanyahu, who faces rifts inside his fractious coalition over phrases for a deal, stated on Sunday Israel was not prepared to simply accept any worth for the hostages.

Polls by the Truman Institute and the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) present a pointy left-right break up on the problem.

On the left, assist for a cope with Hamas involving concessions such as a ceasefire or prisoner launch in trade for the hostages is way larger, whereas on the precise opposition to such a deal and assist for persevering with the battle are stronger.

Political scientist Tamar Hermann of the IDI stated solidarity with the hostage families was mixing with broader anti-government sentiment, partly rooted in an enormous pre-war protest motion towards Netanyahu’s plan to overtake the judiciary.


A big proportion of the Gaza captives come from kibbutzim, communities which have deep historic hyperlinks with the political left. New or current left-wing events might be a pure match for any hostage family who did determine to enter politics.

Asked whether or not his get together wished to recruit any of them, Tomer Reznik, secretary-general of left-wing Meretz, stated it was reorganising itself for the following election and a part of this might be discovering new candidates “relevant to the current situation”.

Conversely, the hostage families are seen as opponents by some on the precise, and particularly on the ultra-nationalist far proper, which has sway over Netanyahu as a result of it’s a part of his fragile coalition. Two far-right ministers implacably against a cope with Hamas might carry down his authorities at any second.

Some of Netanyahu’s hard-right supporters in politics and media painting the hostage families as leftists abusing public sympathy to additional their anti-government agenda, stated political scientist Gideon Rahat of the Hebrew University.

One tactic, he stated, was to amplify the voices of a tiny variety of far-right hostage family who oppose any cope with Hamas, such as Eliyahu Libman, a settler from Kiryat Arba within the Israeli-occupied West Bank, whose son Elyakim is held hostage.

Libman has argued that Israel should destroy Hamas, regardless of the associated fee, in order that no Israeli is harmed by it in future.

“My son is the most important thing in the world to me but the state of Israel is also the most important thing in the world to me,” he stated on Channel 13 TV.

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