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‘No ceasefire before Hamas is destroyed,’ Netanyahu responds to Biden’s dramatic hostage deal presentation

Biden’s declaration was met with immediate international acclaim

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video message, May 22, 2024 (Photo: Screenshot)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dampened expectations after U.S. President Joe Biden announced an Israeli-American roadmap to end the Gaza War on Friday evening, which was received with international acclaim.

During a Friday press briefing, Biden presented a three-stage plan that would begin with a complete ceasefire while the two parties continued to negotiate final details.

“It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin,” he said.

In a rare statement during the Jewish Sabbath, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) responded on Saturday.

“Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: the destruction of Hamas's military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.”

“Under the proposal, Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter.”

This followed a statement immediately after Biden’s speech on Friday. The PMO stressed that Israel’s government was united in working to return the hostages as soon as possible and that Netanyahu had authorized the presentation of a deal proposal to that end which included the goal of destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities.

“The actual proposal put forward by Israel, including the conditional transition from one phase to the next, allows Israel to uphold these principles,” the statement read.

In his speech, Biden gave a detailed overview of the plan he said was offered by Israel and transmitted by Qatar to Hamas leadership.

Each phase would last for 42 days, Biden said. The first phase would include “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. There are American hostages who would be released at this stage.”

During this initial phase, Biden said hostages’ remains would also be returned, while Palestinian civilians would be allowed to return to their homes, including in the northern part of Gaza which Israel has kept closed off during the past months.

In addition, “Humanitarian assistance would surge with 600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza every single day,” Biden said.

The details needed to implement the second phase would be worked out by Israel and Hamas during phase one, which would continue until an agreement was reached.

“There are a number of details to negotiate to move from phase one to phase two. Israel will want to make sure its interests are protected,” Biden conceded.

During the second phase, the president continued, “There would be an exchange for the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers; Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza; and as long as Hamas lives up to its commitments, a temporary ceasefire would become, in the words of the Israeli proposal, ‘the cessation of hostilities permanently.’” 

“Finally, in phase three, a major reconstruction plan for Gaza would commence. And any final remains of hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families,” Biden said.

The U.S. president said there were “those in Israel who will not agree,” accusing them of calling for the war to continue and wanting to occupy Gaza.

“Some are even in the government coalition… They want to keep fighting for years and hostages are not a priority for them,” Biden charged in a thinly veiled attack against Israeli ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, among other right-wing Members of Knesset.

Turning to the Israeli public, Biden asked them to “take a step back and think what will happen if this moment is lost.

“Indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of ‘total victory’ will only bog down Israel in Gaza, draining the economic, military, and human- – and human resources, and furthering Israel’s isolation in the world,” Biden said.

On the other hand, he vowed, “A comprehensive approach that starts with this deal will bring hostages home and will lead to a more secure Israel.

“And once a ceasefire and hostage deal is concluded, it unlocks the possibility of a great deal more progress, including – including calm along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. The United States will help forge a diplomatic resolution,” the president vowed.

Biden’s declaration was met with immediate international acclaim, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and leaders in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

In a first reaction by Hamas, the terror group stated it “looks positively” at Biden’s speech, after recently saying it wasn’t ready to resume negotiations while the war was still ongoing.

“We are ready to deal positively and constructively with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire, complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, reconstruction, the return of the displaced to all their places of residence, and the completion of a serious prisoner exchange deal if the occupation declares its explicit commitment to that,” Hamas stated.

“This deal does stop the war. That's what Hamas wants. They can take the deal. Alternatively, if its leaders choose to live deep underground, holding innocent hostages, including women, as the war goes on and people of Gaza suffer, that would be their choice,” a U.S. official told the Axios news site.

According to the official, the intention of Biden’s unusual speech, which was carried live by Israeli news channels on Friday evening, was to mobilize international pressure on Hamas to take the deal.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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