January 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel: Discussion of Hostage Crisis ‘Constructive,’ But ‘Significant Gaps’ Remain

January 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel: Discussion of Hostage Crisis ‘Constructive,’ But ‘Significant Gaps’ Remain

Latest Developments

The Israeli prime minister’s office said it deemed “constructive” a meeting on January 28 with Qatari, Egyptian, and U.S. delegates aimed at recovering Gaza hostages. The one-day talks in Paris brought together Mossad chief David Barnea, CIA Director William Burns, Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel, and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in a bid to agree on a plan under which Hamas would release at least some of the 132 hostages it is still holding.

Still, the Israeli prime minister’s office added, “There remain significant gaps, which are due for continued discussion among the sides this week.” The statement did not provide further details. The meeting was also attended by Shin Bet director Ronen Bar and retired IDF major-general Nitzan Alon, the Netanyahu government’s coordinator on hostages.

Israeli media reports have spoken of a potential weeks-long suspension of the offensive against Hamas in exchange for the staggered release of hostages, beginning with the women, infirm, and elderly men. In return, Israel could release a large number of jailed Palestinian terrorists, media reports have said. It was unclear to what extent the sides might be able to clinch a deal returning all hostages, given that Hamas has publicly ruled this out before Israel formally ends the Gaza war and frees all of the thousands of Palestinians in its prisons.

Expert Analysis

“Israel is signaling that it is ‘all in’ on freeing its hostages, through diplomacy or force. And the participation of CIA Director Bill Burns signals that the Biden administration is investing in getting the hostages back, including the several U.S. citizens held captive. Qatar and Egypt need to bring all their pressure to bear on Hamas. It’s long past the time for Qatar to deliver after its shocking role in financing and providing ideological support for Hamas.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“At this point in the war, Hamas leaders in Gaza have one goal: survival. They are hoping that the hostage negotiations will deliver this outcome. But any deal that allows the architects of the October 7 massacre to live to fight another day will be unpalatable to the Israelis. This is likely the sticking point of the negotiations, and it is unclear what deal can be struck given this fundamental gap.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

Israel’s Goals Unchanged

Israel, which launched the offensive in response to the October 7 murder and kidnapping spree by Hamas in its southern villages and army bases, vowed that its ultimate goals were unchanged.

“This war cannot be ended with ‘points gained,’ it can only end with a ‘knockout’. We must eliminate Hamas,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said during a visit with Israeli troops. “If we want to live in this region, every terrorist within a radius of hundreds of kilometers from the State of Israel must know that there is only one possible result following the type of attack that was committed — and in this case it is the elimination of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities.”

Israel Demands Qatari Action on Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief

ICJ Rejects Gaza Ceasefire Demand, Urges Hostages Released,” FDD Flash Brief

Freed Israeli Hostage Says She Met Hamas Leader in Captivity,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Offers Two-Month Pause in Fighting in Exchange for Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief


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