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Israel opposes the ceasefire in Gaza that Biden has outlined

Two days after US President Joe Biden put forward an Israeli proposal to end the war against Hamas, it is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not embraced key aspects of the deal.

As the war in Gaza approaches its eighth month, the standoff between Israel and Hamas over exchanging hostages for prisoners remains unchanged: Israel will pause but not end the fighting as long as Hamas’s government and military structures remain intact, while Hamas will only accept hostages will liberate. if a permanent ceasefire is guaranteed.

Biden said Israel has beaten Hamas enough to prevent it from carrying out another attack like the one on October 7, when it killed about 1,200 Israelis and took 250 hostages, and that the time has come to end the war, the hostages to free and start. to rebuild the badly destroyed Gaza Strip.

“They don’t have the military capabilities to do what they did on October 7,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

Militarily, “the Israelis have achieved most of their objectives in Gaza,” he said.

Netanyahu’s government says preventing another October 7 – the worst massacre in the country’s history – is the wrong benchmark.

The position remains that Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, must be stripped of any aggressive capacity and that Israel will not stop until that is achieved.

Biden on Friday presented a three-phase plan that he said was Israel’s: a six-week ceasefire, with hostage and prisoner exchanges and more aid, followed by a focus on a permanent ceasefire and the removal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and, finally, a major reconstruction.

Reuters

Hamas said it welcomed any proposal “based on a permanent ceasefire” and “a total withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli officials say the plan they agreed to does not include a permanent ceasefire, and Netanyahu issued two statements contradicting Biden over the weekend.

In the first statement, Netanyahu said he had authorized his negotiators to present a proposal aimed at the return of the more than a hundred hostages remaining in Gaza, but that “would also allow Israel to continue the war until all its objectives have been achieved, including the destruction of the Gaza Strip.” of Hamas’s military and administrative capabilities.”

The second statement was more pointed: “Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: the destruction of Hamas’s military and administrative capabilities, the release of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat.”

The idea that Israel would agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are met “is a non-starter,” the statement added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday that Israel is working on an alternative to Hamas rule in Gaza, isolating areas to remove Hamas operatives and introducing troops to allow the building of an alternative government.

White House officials told reporters on Saturday that Netanyahu’s comments were related to domestic politics and were part of an effort to appease his right-wing flank.

But that appears to have been wishful thinking by officials with their own political problems – left-wing and young Democrats who may not vote for Biden in November because of the Gaza war.

Indeed, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners rejected what Biden put forward on Israel’s behalf.

As Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Saturday evening: “I just spoke with the Prime Minister and made it clear to him that we will not be part of a government that agrees to the proposed plan and ends the war without destroying Hamas.”

But the concerns extend beyond the extreme right.

Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel’s war cabinet, did not welcome Biden’s speech, saying only that it was time “to formulate the next steps.”

Nevertheless, there is growing pressure in Israel for an agreement that will release the hostages, even if it comes at the cost of ending the war.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid backed Biden’s speech, as did President Isaac Herzog, and weekly demonstrations in Israel calling for an end to the war have grown to more than 100,000.

Leaks within the Israeli negotiating team make it clear that some members would accept an end to the fighting in exchange for freedom for all hostages.

Members of the Israeli security establishment – ​​including former generals who run think tanks – are ready for that too.

They say that with 36,000 dead from Gaza, according to Hamas estimates, and no sign of the arrest of top Hamas leaders, Israel should focus on mending its rocky relationship with Washington and the Arab world rather than keep fighting going.

Some have taken to the airwaves to endorse Biden’s argument that “an indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of ‘total victory’ will only bog down Israel in Gaza, depleting its economic, military and human resources and will further Israel’s isolation in the world. ”

Biden’s speech was clearly intended to reinforce that perspective and push Netanyahu into that camp.

As of Sunday, it was far from clear that it was working.

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