Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Israel against the government of right-wing conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second day in a row. During angry protests near parliament in Jerusalem, demonstrators called for the government to resign, a new election and a quick deal to release the hostages held by the Islamist Palestinian organization Hamas.

Opposition leader Jair Lapid sharply criticized Netanyahu at the demonstration. The head of government was destroying Israel’s relations with the USA and leaving the Hamas hostages to their fate, he said, among other things. “Everything for politics, nothing for the country.”

Netanyahu firmly rejected criticism of his conduct of the negotiations and calls for a new election. “Calls for an election now, at the height of the war, a moment before victory, will paralyze Israel for at least six months, in my estimation even eight months,” he said.

“I won’t leave anyone behind”

A new election would also paralyze negotiations over the release of more hostages in return for a ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of Palestinian prisoners, Netanyahu said. This would “bring about an end to the war before the goals are achieved” and thus play into the hands of Hamas. He emphasized that he was obliged to bring all hostages home. “I won’t leave anyone behind.”

In the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas and other extremist groups from the Gaza Strip, terrorists kidnapped more than 250 people from Israel to the coastal area. Just over 100 hostages were released as part of a deal in November. According to Israeli estimates, almost 100 people abducted by Hamas are still alive. Relatives of the hostages have accused Netanyahu of having no real interest in securing their release.