Meanwhile, “Sinwar is trying to figure out how to stay alive,” Meidan told POLITICO. And by that he means that the presence of hostages is restraining the Israel Defense Forces as they try to locate and kill the Hamas leader. (Sinwar is currently thought to be hidden underground in one of the Hamas tunnels in Khan Yunis.)
Former Israeli intelligence chief Yaakov Peri concurs. Without a deal guaranteeing his life or an agreement on his exile — much like Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat managed in 1982 — there’s little reason for Sinwar to agree to anything, Peri told POLITICO. And even then, he might refuse exile.
“Sinwar wants to remain the ruler of Gaza. And he’s now keeping the remaining hostages close by because he understands we’re not going to bomb him because of the hostages,” he said. “Giving up the hostages would be signing his own death warrant. In this sense, Bibi and Sinwar are alike — they’re both looking out for themselves” Peri added.
But for Netanyahu, there’s an added incentive for clinging to power and prolonging his coalition government, widely viewed as the most right wing in Israel’s 75-year history. The Israeli prime minister’s long-running trial on several fraud, bribery and breach-of-trust charges is set to resume after a pause due to the war in Gaza. And if found guilty, Netanyahu still hopes to pull off a legislative “get out of jail free card,” for which he may well need his 64-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset.
And what about Abbas, the octogenarian PA leader? According to political scientist Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, “Abbas wants to survive, and he has been in this situation for a very long time. Since the collapse of his negotiations with Ehud Olmert in 2008 and the Gaza war in 2014, he’s been in survival mode, basically.”
Sitting in his office located near the Palestinian Legislative Council’s (PLC) main administrative office in Al-Bireh, Shikaki told POLITICO he believes that “Abbas is paralyzed and isn’t taking any risks — even the simplest, like deploying his police to protect communities under the control of the Palestinian Authority from Israeli settlers. It is his responsibility to protect them. Yet, he hasn’t sent a single policeman. Why? Because he doesn’t want to rock the boat or disturb the status quo.”