Hamas ‘positive’ over hostage talks – Qatar; Netanyahu in tough spot after Israeli ministers attack Biden

Hamas ‘positive’ over hostage talks – Qatar; Netanyahu in tough spot after Israeli ministers attack Biden
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Prime Minister of the State of Qatar, during a United Nations Security Council meeting, 29 November 2023, New York City. (Photo: David Dee Delgado / Getty Images)

Hamas has delivered a ‘positive’ response to a potential deal that could see the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, Qatar’s prime minister told a briefing.

Hamas has delivered a “positive” response to a potential deal that could see the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, Qatar’s prime minister told a briefing.

Qatar received the group’s response about the general framework for an agreement to release some of the hostages, Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told a briefing alongside Blinken.

“The response includes some remarks, but overall it is positive,” Al Thani said. 

Blinken is on a tour to several Middle Eastern countries including Qatar to push forward an agreement to release Israeli hostages held in Gaza by Hamas, as well as a possible ceasefire to ease tensions in the region.

Netanyahu in tough spot as key ministers attack Biden 

As Blinken shuttles across the Middle East in the hope of easing regional tensions and winding down the war in Gaza, far-right Israeli ministers are pulling in the opposite direction.

In recent days, two of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most important ministers have attacked US President Joe Biden.

Itamar Ben Gvir, the national security minister, said Biden was hindering the offensive against Hamas and was too focused on getting aid to civilians in Gaza. He suggested that, from Israel’s standpoint, Donald Trump would be a better president.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich then assailed Biden for imposing sanctions on half a dozen Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Blocking their access to bank accounts amounts to an “anti-Semitic campaign”, he said. 

The two politicians have long been controversial and outspoken. But their blunt criticism of Biden — who visited Israel soon after Hamas’ attack on 7 October and has consistently defended its right to wage war in Gaza — underscores the strains between the two countries’ leaderships.

Netanyahu is trying to tread a narrow path by keeping the far right in his coalition and ostensibly cooperating with the Biden administration. But it’s becoming more difficult the longer the war continues and the more Israel faces pressure to end it.

The US, while backing Israel’s right to attack Hamas, is trying to persuade Netanyahu to ease the scale of its military operations. Washington is also insisting — to the chagrin of Netanyahu and his ministers — that Israel accept a two-state solution as the only path to peace with the Palestinians. 

The prime minister responded to the comments by thanking Biden for his steadfast support and for US efforts to free more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza by Hamas.

But he has refused to condemn either of his coalition partners. And, like Smotrich, he rejected the sanctions, which the US says are to stop violence against Palestinians by settlers.

“The overwhelming majority of residents of Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank’s biblical name. “Israel acts against all Israelis who break the law everywhere. Therefore exceptional measures are unnecessary.”

Biden is running for re-election this year, probably against Trump, and has already faced a backlash from Arab-American voters and young Democrats. They feel betrayed by his support of Israel’s war, in which more than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to officials at the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union.

This is posing a challenge to Biden in several key swing states such as Michigan.

In Israel, Netanyahu is facing his own political challenges. Polls show the overwhelming majority of Israelis want early elections — the next ones aren’t due until 2026 — and would vote Netanyahu out of office. But as long as Ben Gvir and Smotrich remain at his side and their parties stay in the coalition, Netanyahu can hold out for another two years.

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That gives him an incentive not to alienate them or their settler base, which is precisely what Biden and many of Israel’s other allies would like him to do.

Without the US and its billions of dollars in military aid, though, Israel would find it harder to fight Hamas.

Read more: Israel warns time for diplomacy with Hezbollah running out

Blinken is trying to mediate a deal that would pause fighting for around six weeks, while freeing several dozen hostages and more Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. That might lead to an extended ceasefire involving Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries committing to rebuild a devastated Gaza.

The Arab governments say that can’t happen without a clear path to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Polls show that most Israelis — not just Netanyahu and the ruling coalition — oppose such a plan, at least for now. They remain traumatised by Hamas’ rampage through southern Israeli communities, in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 abducted. They fear an independent Palestinian state will ultimately be taken over by Hamas or other such group.  

As the pressure builds, Netanyahu will face a tough choice.

“Netanyahu needs to decide in the long term which of the two to forgo: Ben Gvir or the United States,” Ben-Dror Yemini, a political moderate, wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Milei pledges to move Argentina’s embassy to Jerusalem

Argentine President Javier Milei told Israeli officials that he plans to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, underscoring his efforts to use his first bilateral trip abroad to bring the two nations closer.

Milei confirmed the plans to Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz upon arriving in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Diana Mondino, Argentina’s foreign minister, later said that no official decision had been made and that relocating the embassy would be a long process, according to Argentine news outlets.

The shift would make Argentina the largest nation to move its embassy since the US relocated to Jerusalem in 2018, and Milei’s desire to complete it highlights the clear pro-Israel stance he has staked out even as the country faces allegations of genocide and intensifying international criticism over its ongoing war in Gaza.

Milei has also said that he plans to label Hamas a terrorist organisation, a move that would put Argentina at odds with other Latin American countries that have blasted Netanyahu’s strategy to eradicate the organisation from the Gaza Strip. 

Milei’s promises to strengthen ties with Israel began before the 7 October Hamas attack that sparked the current war, and his geopolitical plans often overlap with personal religious beliefs that have included his journey toward Judaism.

Read more: Milei’s embrace of Judaism seals Argentina’s pro-Israel stance

Milei has said that he intends to convert from Catholicism, and after winning the presidency flew to New York to visit the tomb of orthodox rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson before having lunch with Bill Clinton.  

US launches strikes in Yemen against two explosive drone boats

The US struck two Houthi sea drones in Yemen, as the Iran-backed group’s attacks around the Red Sea continue causing havoc in the shipping world.

American forces hit the boats on Monday afternoon, the latest of several strikes on Houthi positions since mid-January.

The Houthis, which control much of Yemen including its capital Sanaa and the Red Sea port of Hodeida, have used boats laden with explosives — as well as missiles and airborne drones — as part of their campaign to disrupt shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The Houthis started their assaults in mid-November and say they’re in support of Hamas as its war against Israel in Gaza continues.

“US forces identified the explosive USVs in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” the US military said late on Monday. USV is the abbreviation for uncrewed surface vehicle.

On Tuesday, the Houthis said they targeted two more ships sailing in the southern Red Sea.

One, a small UK-run container ship called Morning Tide, had steel fragments on its deck after an explosion about 50 or 60 metres away, according to the vessel’s owner, London-based Furadino Shipping. The Houthis said they also targeted a commodity carrier called Star Nasia.

The group has pledged to continue attacking vessels until Israel pulls out of the Gaza Strip. The US has said that while it doesn’t expect to deter the Houthis, its attacks — on targets such as airports, radar stations and weapons caches — are degrading their military capabilities. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    The common interest for America and Israel is killing people to achieve their ends.
    America’s problem is Iran but rather than facing Iran they will kill everyone associated with Iran as a supposed deterrence.
    America is also hungry for oil, they will kill anyone standing in that desire, worse they will even resort to literally stealing openly which can explain what they are doing in Syria.
    Israel is greedy and power hungry, they are bombing Palestine to the ground in the pretext of fighting Hamas question is why the settlements in the middle of a war.
    The occupation?
    Israel is not stupid they know why October 7,2014 attacks and others are happening and they know it won’t be the last except if they do two things.
    Allowing a Palestinian state on 1947 borders as per UN resolution or
    Cleanse the Palestinians out of west bank and Gaza and declare it Israel state.
    They seem to choose the latter with the hope that with time the world will under despair will accept the situation.
    Germany did it and besides the historic stigma they literally got away with it.
    They are now making it up by supporting Israel commit its own Genocide.
    For those who watch European will need the definition of genocide because it’s not on the screens.
    Watch Al jazerra and they will see genocide in real time but I must warn it’s not for the faint hearted.
    Hamas did a terrible thing which might suit the likes of Iran but not Palestine.
    Russia indirectly benefits not sure by design or fate.

    • Ben Harper says:


    • Denise Smit says:

      Lots in this is slander and disinformation. USA willing to “kill” anyone for instance. You must be a red beret

      • Denny v d Plikkie says:

        Denise, I constantly see you posting and replying nonsense on DM. You contributions are predominantly a waste of time to read, and you do nothing to back up any “fact” you spew. If you are going to address what Kenneth Fakude says, at least put some thought and substance to what you are saying… come with rebuttals and counter-arguments, not some finger pointing insult to call him a red-beret.
        While I may not agree with Kenneth, simply labelling it slander and disinformation is disingenuous when you offer ZERO clarity around your statement.

  • John P says:

    I for one am hopeful that the cease fire and hostage/detainee swap move along smoothly. Perhaps from there, with some pressure from the USA etc., a workable permanent two state solution will arise.

  • The war must go on.
    Conditions for ceasefire are –
    Release all Israeli hostages and bodies for burial.
    Israel does not withdraw from Gaza, Israel does not occupy Gaza by maintains security control over Gaza
    Israel allows a Palestinian and International de-militarised entity to run Gaza under Israel’s oversight
    This can pave the way for a Palestinian state down the road provided the Palestinians lay down their arms and recognise Israel
    Hamas must go forever
    Failing this, Israel must keep bombing Gaza until their demands are met.

  • No ceasefire.
    Return hostages and bodies for burial.
    Israel maintains security control over a demilitarised Gaza.
    No withdrawal of Israeli troops.
    Pause in fighting when all histages are released.
    Hamas must go forever.
    Am Yisrael Chai

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