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Biden Announcement on Gaza Ceasefire Plan Roils Netanyahu Coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement on Nov. 24, 2015, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. (U.S. State Department/Released)
June 03, 2024

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t appear to be on the same page about a proposed agreement to bring the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip to a close.

Biden announced on Friday that “Israel has offered a comprehensive new proposal” for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. president proceeded to describe a three-phase deal, which would see Israeli forces withdraw from the Gazan population centers, allow expanded humanitarian aid into the territory, and let Palestinians return to their homes and begin the reconstruction process, in exchange for the release of civilians and Israeli forces taken captive on Oct. 7.

But the “Israeli” plan Biden articulated may not be what the Israeli leader actually has in mind. Speaking to the Knesset, the Israeli legislature, on Monday, Netanyahu denied any suggestion the ceasefire plan his government has offered would stop short of his wartime goal to eliminate Hamas.

“The claims that we have agreed to a ceasefire without our conditions being met are incorrect,” Netanyahu told the Knesset.

The Gaza Plan Biden Described

Biden detailed the alleged Israeli ceasefire proposal during an impromptu White House speech on Friday, May 31.

The president described a three-phase proposal. The first phase, he said, would last at least six weeks, and see “a full and complete ceasefire; a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza; a release of a number of hostages — including women, the elderly, the wounded — in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”

Under phase one, Israel would also allow up to 600 truckloads of food to reach the Gaza Strip daily.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) estimates a daily average of 500 truckloads of supplies was needed to sustain the Gaza Strip’s population before the current conflict. UNRWA reports 1,479 trucks have entered the Gaza Strip through the land crossings in May, for a daily average of 47.7 trucks.

Biden said phase two is contingent on the success of phase one. He said the ceasefire and other phase one terms would hold beyond six weeks, as long as both sides remain committed to continued negotiations.

Biden said phase two would see the permanent end of the current Gaza hostilities. He said Hamas would also release all remaining captives; a group consisting of male Israeli soldiers taken as prisoners of war.

Finally, Biden said phase three of the plan would see “a major reconstruction” commence in the Gaza Strip.

Biden Speech Alarms Netanyahu Coalition

Throughout his Friday remarks, Biden referred to Hamas in a manner suggesting it’s continued existence after the current conflict.

Biden said Israeli forces have “devastated Hamas” over the past eight months of fighting and rendered them incapable of carrying out an attack like they did in Israel on Oct. 7. But rather than describing a post-Hamas Gaza Strip, Biden said only that plan “does not allow Hamas to re-arm.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced on Saturday that he had spoken to Netanyahu and made clear his opposition to any peace that allows Hamas to remain.

“I have now spoken with the Prime Minister and made it clear to him that I will not be part of a government that will agree to the proposed outline and end the war without destroying Hamas and returning all the abductees,” Smotrtich said in a social media post on Saturday.

Smotrich said he would demand Israeli forces continue to fight until Hamas is defeated, and there is “the creation of a completely different security reality in Gaza and Lebanon.”

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has also rebuffed the proposal Biden laid out last week.

In a Monday statement, Ben-Gvir said Netanyahu gave his assurances that he hadn’t agreed to a peace plan without the defeat of Hamas, and that Biden had simply mischaracterized the plan he had put forward. Ben-Gvir said he pressed Netanyahu to show him the exact draft of the peace plan the Israeli prime minister communicated to Biden, but that Netanyahu has yet to reveal that record.

Ben-Gvir said he and his Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party would pull out of Netanyahu’s governing coalition if the Israeli prime minister had agreed to a “promiscuous deal” that ends the fighting without eliminating Hamas. Otzma Yehudit pulling out of the Netanyahu coalition could bring on the coalition’s collapse.

Ben-Gvir recently suggested Israel should not only continue its military operations in the Gaza Strip, but occupy the territory after the fighting ends.

Speaking to members of the press on Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller insisted that the peace deal Biden described does indeed describe the terms set by the Israeli government, but that “there are certain people in the Israeli cabinet, in the Israeli government, who would probably not look too kindly on this.”

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.