What’s Happening with the Hostage Negotiations?

Tamir Hayman analyzes the latest reports about an offer by Hamas to release three female soldiers in exchange for 150 captured terrorists, of whom 90 have received life sentences; then, if that exchange happens successfully, a second stage of the deal will begin.

If this does happen, Israel will release all the serious prisoners who had been sentenced to life and who are associated with Hamas, which will leave Israel without any bargaining chips for the second stage. In practice, Israel will release everyone who is important to Hamas without getting back all the hostages. In this situation, it’s evident that Israel will approach the second stage of the negotiations in the most unfavorable way possible. Hamas will achieve all its demands in the first stage, except for a commitment from Israel to end the war completely.

How does this relate to the fighting in Rafah? Hayman explains:

In the absence of an agreement or compromise by Hamas, it is detrimental for Israel to continue the static situation we were in. It is positive that new energy has entered the campaign. . . . The [capture of the] border of the Gaza Strip and the Rafah crossing are extremely important achievements, while the ongoing dismantling of the battalions is of secondary importance.

That being said, Hayman is critical of the approach to negotiations taken so far:

Gradual hostage trades don’t work. We must adopt a different concept of a single deal in which Israel offers a complete cessation of the war in exchange for all the hostages.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security