Media Summary

The Times reports that Hamas and Israel have agreed to the “substance” of a deal that would result in the remaining civilian hostages held in Gaza being freed in return for a ceasefire lasting 40 days, according to a Qatari official.


The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail and the BBC report that Joe Biden has issued an executive order targeting Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been attacking Palestinians, amid fast-growing frustration in Washington at Israel’s trajectory in the midst of its war in Gaza.

The Guardian reports that The UK could officially recognise a Palestinian state after a ceasefire in Gaza without waiting for the outcome of what could be years of talks between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution, David Cameron has said. Con Coughlin in The Telegraph argues that this is “seriously premature”.

The Guardian also reports that ministers in Israel’s war cabinet are reportedly considering limiting the amount of aid reaching Gaza, as protesters disrupt the entry of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies. Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot suggested temporarily limiting aid to weaken Hamas, Israel’s Channel 12 reported late on Wednesday.

Sky News publishes an article on Democrats turning on Joe Biden ahead of this year’s election because of the war in Gaza.

The Telegraph reports that the UK government is facing growing calls from ministers to provide extra security for all MPs after a surge in cases of pro-Israel politicians being targeted since the Oct 7 Hamas attacks and the war in Gaza.

The BBC and The Guardian report that  a “dangerous object” found outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm has been destroyed, Swedish police say. The incident – labelled an “attempted attack” by the Israeli ambassador – saw officers cordon off a wide area nearby. Police told the BBC it was too early to give further details on the object. They said no-one had been injured.

The Telegraph reports that Israel has cleared a 1km buffer zone inside the Gaza Strip as part of a new security border that could shrink the overall size of the Palestinian territory.

The Telegraph publishes a comment arguing that the Gaza-Egypt border is Israel’s unsolved problem. Closing the crucial Hamas smuggling route is vital to ensuring Israel’s security – regardless of what her allies might think.

Both Yediot Ahronot and Maariv relate to news that Leader of the Opposition Lapid has reportedly promised to “give the government a safety net” in the context of a possible hostage / security prisoner exchange deal to which right-wing components in Netanyahu’s government are opposed.

Sima Kadmon in Yediot Ahronot writes of this as “another step in Lapid’s proposal from October 7… Lapid is well aware of Netanyahu’s hierarchy of needs, and as long as the ones on the bottom are not met, no other needs can be met. Netanyahu’s needs are clear to Lapid: first, getting out of his trial, followed by political survival and only at the end, if the previous need is met—the good of the country…Netanyahu’s basic need is survival and he will continue to maneuver between the right-wing—which is demanding he prioritise toppling Hamas as the first objective, otherwise Ben Gvir will quit the government—and the thinking in the war cabinet, mainly of Gadi Eisenkot, which is pressing for the return of all the hostages first of all.”

In Haaretz, Yossi Verter also touches on Netanyahu’s difficulty managing different parts of the coalition, writing that the PM is facing his sternest test ever, and its multi-faceted. “Today, his survival hinges on his ‘bloc’ of 64 Knesset seats. It depends on the extreme right he has cultivated, his coalition partners and their doppelgangers in Likud, where the weeds have invaded virtually every green patch, leaving only tiny patches of sanity… He must contend with the reservist troops and hostages’ families, Yoav Gallant and the defence establishment, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. In addition, there is the economy and the international community… The test he faces is brutal – the correct answer in one section will bring him a failing mark in another, a giant zero-sum game.”

The editorial in Haaretz argues that there is not and there will not be an “image of victory” without the return of the hostages. Giving up on a deal, however painful its terms, and another abandonment of those who are still alive will prevent Israeli society from healing from the wounds of October 7. The concessions being asked of Israel are indeed great: the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and, up front, a long pause in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, in exchange for the first release of about 35 hostages. The question must be asked: If Israel does dare to abandon the hostages to their deaths and their families to the torture of uncertainty and grief, what kind of state will we have? The prime minister and the cabinet members on the right must listen to this plea, which is shared by many Israelis, and accede to it.

Also discussing a potential hostage deal, Nahum Barnea in Yediot Ahronot writes that “the problem is the means of leverage: it isn’t clear whether Qatar, Egypt, Hamas-overseas and the military pressure on the ground are enough to force Sinwar to make a deal.” Barnea also relates to an emerging Biden administration plan – “in essence, it seeks to turn the October 7 disaster into a springboard for changing the rules of the game in the Middle East. Against the Iran-Russia-Syria-Houthis-Hezbollah-Hamas axis, a counter axis would be formed under American leadership, together with Saudi Arabia and Israel, all the Sunni states and a revitalized Palestinian Authority on the road to becoming a state. Two important elements were added on the way: the first, the importance of a hostage deal as leverage to get Israel on board and secondly, the insertion of a direct military dimension in the conflict between the US and Iran.” Barnea believes that “The grand American plan holds, if it happens, quite a lot of benefits for Israel. What began with a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan and the Oslo Accords, and which gained major momentum with the Abraham Accords, will be completed with a normalisation agreement with Saudi Arabia. No less important, the battle against the Iranian nuclear program will have the full support of the United States. That conflicts with the bad advice that Netanyahu gave to Trump, which led to the American withdrawal from the agreement and turned Iran into a regional military empire, a nuclear threshold state.”

Amos Harel in Haaretz also discusses the emerging hostage deal. “Netanyahu is trying to control every stage of the process, and the suspicion is that he’s in no hurry to advance a deal, because doing so could place him on a collision course with the ultra-right wing of his coalition. Along the way, he’s ignoring the fact that his emissaries in Paris – the heads of the defence establishment – have been coordinating with the mediators for some time, and that many of the proposal’s details were worked out with Israel’s agreement.” Harel adds that “on the face of it, Netanyahu can still stick to the promises he made this week: not to stop the war completely and not to release thousands of terrorists, at least not in the first stage. But carrying out the deal’s later stages will create a political difficulty for him in the hard-right part of his government and among some of his voters.”

The results of a poll in Israel Hayom show that if Nir Barkat were to become chairman of Likud, the party would likely get 19 seats – the same as what Netanyahu would bring under that poll. If former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen becomes Likud leader, the party will strengthen and get 22 seats. Compared to the previous poll from January 12, there are several changes. The National Unity party headed by Benny Gantz is projected to get 34 seats (compared to 31 seats in the previous poll), while Likud weakens to 19 seats (it got 21 in the previous poll). Another takeaway is that only about half of Likud supporters (47 percent) would still vote for Likud today. Some 16 percent of them would vote for Gantz’s party and 7 per ent would support Religious Zionism. On the other side of the political map, about half of Yesh Atid voters (45 percent) would still for it if elections were held today, but 38 percent would vote for the National Unity and other parties