Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu battles on all fronts, amid growing pressure to free hostages
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is facing unprecedented pressure over his country’s policy of continued detention of Palestinians as prisoners of war.
Netanyahu has long maintained that some of those held by Israel are terrorists and others “dangerous criminals” with blood on their hands, and that they cannot be released without putting Israel’s security at risk.
That position is being increasingly challenged by a grassroots movement of families and human rights campaigners who claim that their loved ones have been illegally detained without due process and held in often squalid conditions.
The protests have been building since the start of the year, when Israeli soldiers arrested hundreds of men without charge in a massive operation against Hamas militants in the West Bank.
Netanyahu has vowed to fight the campaigners’ legal appeals and activation on social media. But in recent months, the prime minister has also appeared increasingly fatigued under the strain, with a steady stream of criticism from European countries, dogged legal challenges and even some questions from within his own right-wing coalition.
The pressure has reignited debate over his extending of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, a move that was strongly opposed by the international community. It has put Netanyahu in an uncomfortable position, leaving him increasingly isolated internationally and politically, while facing a barrage of negative headlines.
The situation is likely to test Netanyahu’s leadership in the weeks and months ahead, as more and more attention is focused on his stance on the prisoners. It could also lead to worse outcomes, as the impasse over their release drags on.