Israel opposition leader calls for captive deal during US visit

AFP , Monday 8 Apr 2024

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid called Monday for a deal with Hamas to free captives as he visited the United States, which has voiced growing frustration at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid arrives to speak to reporters after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US State Department on April 8, 2024, in Washington, DC. AFP


Speaking after meeting Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Lapid said the opposition would offer temporary support to Netanyahu's hard-right government if he approves a deal backed by the United States, Egypt and Qatar that would see the release of captives and a truce in Israel's brutal Gaza war, now in its sixth month.

"A hostage deal is doable. It is a difficult deal, this is a deal we may not like, but it's doable and therefore needs to be made," he told reporters outside the State Department.

"Those people need to go back to their families," said Lapid, a centrist former journalist who served as prime minister in 2022.

Israel and Hamas on Monday both dampened hopes of a speedy breakthrough in talks in Cairo after Egyptian state-linked media had reported "significant progress."

President Joe Biden sent CIA chief Bill Burns to the talks after publicly urging Israel to come to a deal.

Biden last week warned that the future of US support was on the line without action on humanitarian concerns after Israel killed seven aid workers in Gaza, where the United Nations has warned of impending famine as Israel has blocked all land crossings into the Palestinian territory.

Lapid, who has criticized Netanyahu in the past for eroding bipartisan US support for Israel, said that both Israel and the United States should be concerned about civilians in Gaza.

"We need to make sure we do our best to avoid hurting the people of Gaza," Lapid said.

"We have no war with the children of Gaza. Children should not be hurt in grown-ups' wars," he said, accusing Hamas of using them as human shields despite Israel's deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza.

Lapid called for Israel and the United States to remain "best of allies and best of friends," saying that "no current events and no government" should change the relationship.

Israel has said its military accidentally killed the aid workers.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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