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Netanyahu gives in to US pressure on Paris talks but still committed to war

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walked back his previous opposition and agreed to send an Israeli delegation to Paris only under American pressure and to preserve Israeli ties with Egypt.
SHIR TOREM/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the participation of an Israeli delegation in Friday’s US-led negotiations in Paris on a hostage deal with Hamas, reluctantly giving in to heavy pressure from President Joe Biden and centrists in his own war cabinet. 

Benny Gantz, a member of the cabinet, convened a rare news conference on Wednesday to announce potential progress in efforts to negotiate the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. "There are attempts these days to promote a new outline for the release of the hostages and initial signs that indicate the possibility of moving forward. We will not stop looking for the way, and we will not miss any opportunity to bring the girls and boys home," he said. 

His announcement was clearly designed to force Netanyahu into approving the participation of an Israeli team at top-level US-led hostage deal talks scheduled for Friday. Indeed, on Thursday night, the war cabinet and broader security cabinet approved the participation of Mossad chief David Barnea and his team at the Paris meeting. He will join CIA Director William Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed al-Thani and Abbas Kamel, Egypt's intelligence chief.

Gantz’s news conference was also likely intended to counter Netanyahu and his associates' negativity toward the prospects of a hostage deal breakthrough. On Tuesday, hostage families were outraged by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who said that the release of the 134 Israelis was not a top priority. “It is not the most important thing. We need to destroy Hamas. That is very important,” he told Israel's Kan public radio.

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