Friday, May 24, 2024

Poll: Majority of Jewish Israelis say captive deal higher priority than Rafah invasion

A majority of Jewish Israelis see reaching an agreement to release the hostages in the Gaza Strip as a higher priority than military action in Rafah, a survey published Tuesday has found.

The poll, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), asked participants what should be the highest priority in terms of Israeli national interest: military action in Rafah or a deal to release the hostages held by Hamas.

The survey found that a majority of the Jewish public (56%) agree that an agreement to release the captives should be the top priority for Israel, while 37% say military action in Rafah should be the top priority.

Among Arab Israelis, nearly 89% said a deal to release the hostages is more important.

Data collection was carried out from May 1 to 6, 2024, with 600 men and women interviewed via the internet and by telephone in Hebrew and 150 in Arabic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed Israel’s military operation in Rafah serves the twin goals of returning the hostages held in Gaza and eliminating Hamas.

“I ordered to operate in Rafah. Within hours, our forces raised the Israeli flags at the Rafah crossing and took down the Hamas flags,” Netanyahu said in a video statement Tuesday, describing operations that began overnight.

“The entrance to Rafah serves two main war goals: the return of our hostages and the elimination of Hamas,” he added.

Netanyahu stressed that, as previously demonstrated, “military pressure on Hamas is a necessary condition for the return of our hostages. The Hamas proposal yesterday was intended to torpedo the entry of our forces into Rafah. It did not happen.”

Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal Monday evening, but Israel announced the deal remained “far from” meeting its demands. Netanyahu confirmed he’d sent Israel’s negotiating team to Cairo, Egypt’s capital, to continue to “stand firm” on the conditions Israel is seeking.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, also said in a statement Tuesday the Israeli military’s operations in Rafah will “continue and expand as necessary”.

Gantz, widely seen as a potential successor to Netanyahu, stated returning the hostages held in Gaza remained the cabinet’s “highest priority”, while talks over a ceasefire-for-hostages deal with Hamas continue.

“At any stage where we can reach an outline for the return of our hostages, we will do so. This task has the highest priority.”

He added Israel’s negotiating team in Egypt, where talks with Hamas have been taking place, “does not have a mandate just to listen – it has an obligation to turn over every stone, and to act to bring about an outline [for a deal]. We all work to make this happen, every day.”

Gantz has been one of the most vocal members of Netanyahu’s cabinet calling for an acceptable ceasefire deal, while the more extreme wing of the coalition has said destroying Hamas in Rafah must remain the priority.

“Our achievements, even if it takes a long time to achieve them, must be strategic – and the return of our hostages is the first strategic goal, alongside the need to remove the threat of Hamas and make sure that such a threat does not re-emerge,” he continued.

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