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The Discarded and the Saved: Will Israeli Men and Women Hostages Face Different Fates?

The question of whether the war in Gaza will be resumed between phase one and two of the cease-fire plan presented by President Joe Biden is the main, and most difficult, obstacle. What happens if Israel accepts the deal, but then renews the war?

A woman and her children walk past a wall in Jerusalem with photos of hostages who were kidnapped during the October 7 Hamas attack. [Leo Correa | AP]

On Friday, Israel will mark eight months since the October 7 terror attack, which led to the outbreak of the current Israel-Hamas war. For me and my family, these have been the most difficult months of our lives: We were almost murdered, over a dozen of our friends and neighbors were killed in the small Gaza border community of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and we have no idea when we'll be able to go back home.

But Friday won't be a day of commemoration for us, or of triumphing over the past. Currently, we have no time to deal with those things, because we still have two friends from our kibbutz – Omri Miran and Tsachi Idan – in the hands of Hamas. They are both fathers of young children, who watched them being kidnapped from their homes. As long as they are in the tunnels in Gaza, the date on our calendar remains October 7.

We will ask ourselves on Friday: How did it come to this? How can it be that after so many months, they are still not home, as are dozens of other Israeli hostages, including several female soldiers who were kidnapped from the Nahal Oz base right across from our community.

The answer is simple, and at the same time, difficult to admit. The last several months of negotiations over a hostage deal have been a giant waste of time. In early December – after the previous hostage deal fell apart – Israel invaded Khan Yunis, the second-largest city in Gaza. The Israeli government and the army promised hostages' families that this move will increase the military pressure on Hamas and push the organization toward more "reasonable" demands and allow for another hostage deal.

Half a year later, Hamas continues to insist on one main condition for the release of the hostages: an end to the war.

The current three-phase hostage deal, as presented last week by U.S. President Joe Biden, includes two major initial stages. In the first stage, there will be a six-week cease-fire, during which Hamas will release women, wounded and elderly hostages. Then, there is supposed to be a second phase, which will include the release of all other living hostages – and a final end to the current war.

Hamas is concerned that Israel will turn its back on the deal after the implementation of the first phase and renew the fighting. There are reasons to think that way: Netanyahu continues to say that he will not support any agreement that includes an end to the war. His government is facing immense pressure over the fate of the women hostages, who are being raped and may have become pregnant during their long months in captivity. But there is sadly less public pressure on him to release the men held by Hamas – for his voters, they are not much different from and are similar in age to the soldiers who have been dying by the dozens every month since this war started.

The question of whether the war will be resumed between phase one and two is the main, and most difficult, obstacle. Biden has made a major push for an agreement over the past week, and rightly blames Hamas for the current impasse. But the sad reality is that until this question – "What happens if Israel decided to give up on the men and renew the war?" – has a clear and decisive answer, a deal will continue to elude us.


© 2024, Haaretz


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