There were intense exchanges during a committee meeting in the Israeli parliament Monday as family members of some of the hostages held in Gaza clashed with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and other far-right members of the government.
Ben-Gvir, a divisive figure in Israeli politics who wants Israel to annex the Palestinian territories, is promoting legislation that would see the death penalty handed down to terrorists.
Hostage family members, holding pictures of their loved ones, vented their frustrations. One of them, Gil Dickmann, whose cousin is being held in Gaza, repeatedly shouted: “Bring them home!”
“Maybe instead of talking about the dead, talk about the living. Stop talking about killing Arabs. Talk about saving Jews. This is your job!” shouted Hen Avigdori, whose wife and daughter were taken on October 7.
Already frustrated at the apparent lack of progress to free the hostages, the family members accused Ben-Gvir of endangering their loved ones further by putting the issue of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons back in the spotlight.
Family members worry that by suggesting that Israel might execute Palestinian prisoners, it could make Hamas less willing to release hostages or increase the likelihood of their mistreatment in Gaza.
Almog Cohen, a colleague of Ben-Gvir in the Jewish Power party, fired back at family members.
“You don’t have a monopoly on pain. We also buried more than 50 friends,” Cohen said.
The meeting was held to discuss Ben-Gvir’s proposed legislation, which is making its way through parliament. It still has several stages to pass before it becomes law and could be withdrawn.
Later in Tel Aviv, a large group of other family members met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the war cabinet at the Defense Ministry.
Udi Goren, one of the family members, left early because he felt there was no new information provided by the war cabinet.
He said he was very disappointed to hear the government was not prioritizing the release of the hostages above all else, including the mission to defeat Hamas.
Asked if he had heard any information about a possible release of hostages, Goren told CNN there was nothing new.