‘Emergency gov’t isn’t stable’: MK Deri discusses hostage deal, cabinet leaks, and wartime cabinet

The leader of Shas, Aryeh Deri, discussed the progress of hostage deal talks, as well as tensions within the War Cabinet and leaks about decisions that were made, in an interview with Kikar HaShabbat on Sunday.

When asked about the odds of a successful hostage deal, MK Deri said, “Yesterday, there was a very long conversation; I participated in the talks via the ‘red line.’ There is a good chance of a deal, but we are still far away. We decided to send a delegation and continue, with God’s help.”

These comments follow weeks of talks which have failed to lead to a deal, although officials have been cautiously optimistic the past few days. Late Monday night, US President Joe Biden said that he hoped to have a hostage deal in place by this coming Monday, March 4.

Deri also addressed rumors of leaks from the cabinet in the interview. “The most serious leaks concern Gadi Eisenkot’s letters and the leaks from the cabinet regarding [security during] Ramadan,” he said. “I can tell you that yesterday everyone came to a consensus; there were no differences of opinion or disagreements, not even among the defense establishment or the ministers.”

Conversations from the cabinet have been occasionally leaking since the early days of the war. Matters reached a point in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to pass a law that would make it illegal for the censor to approve the publication of leaked conversations from cabinet meetings.

People carry placards during a protest calling for the immediate release of hostages held in Gaza who were seized from southern Israel on October 7 by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas gunmen during a deadly attack, at a square in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 11, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

According to Deri, “We want to bring about a good deal that will achieve several goals but will also be accepted by the Israeli public. This is not a simple deal; we do not have feedback from Hamas at the moment,” he said.  “All communication we have had was with the mediators. We have a difficult path ahead of us; it could suddenly change in a few days.”

Regarding the fear of political considerations in the hostage deal, Deri expressed, “I believe that a deal approved by the War Cabinet will also pass through the government. There are no political considerations, even the rigidity shown by the prime minister— it only advances the negotiations. This is my impression.”

The terms of a hostage deal are a source of contention in the government

The exact demands and importance of a hostage deal are also heavy points of contention in the Knesset. Many MKs say that the hostages need to be returned immediately, with some saying at any price. On the other hand, MKs like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have been vocal about how they think returning hostages isn’t Israel’s number one priority, and increasing pressure to accept a deal is ruining Israel’s leverage in negotiations.

Finally, when asked about the longevity of the emergency government with Gantz, Deri stated, “There is no doubt that [the emergency government] isn’t stable and durable; it is easy to weaken.”

“Unfortunately, it is not something meant for the long term. If we don’t know how to maintain it, it may be impossible to sustain. But as long we are able to keep it running, we have to.”