Netanyahu, facing pressure from right, says ‘gaps’ remain in proposal to end war announced by Biden

By Philissa Cramer

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza outside the Defense Ministry Headquarters in Tel Aviv, June 1, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that there are “gaps” between the ceasefire terms that President Joe Biden laid out on Friday and what he is prepared to accept.

“The proposal that Biden presented is incomplete,” Netanyahu said during a closed-door government meeting in which he called reporting about his position on a potential deal “fake news,” according to Israeli media reports.

Netanyahu’s comments, as well as growing tension within the government over a potential ceasefire, are muting hopes that Biden’s announcement could soon lead to an end to the Israel-Hamas war and the return of Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

They come after a weekend of advocacy around the proposed deal, which Biden said Israel had offered and was up to Hamas to accept. An estimated 150,000 Israelis rallied on Saturday night in favor of the deal, and Egypt’s foreign minister said Hamas had “received the proposal positively.” (Egypt is helping broker talks between the two enemies.)

But at the same time, two far-right ministers said they would exit Netanyahu’s government, likely collapsing his governing coalition, if the prime minister struck a deal with Hamas to end the war. Netanyahu plans to meet with one of the ministers, Itamar Ben-Gvir, on Monday, sources told the New York Times.

The deal Biden described would start with a six-week ceasefire and the release of women, wounded and elderly hostages, as well as a withdrawal of Israeli forces from population centers, and the acceleration of the entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza. Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange.

The second phase of the deal would see the release of Israeli troops held by Hamas, and the final phase would release the bodies of hostages who were killed by Hamas or who died in captivity and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Netanyahu’s office said immediately after Biden’s speech, made after the start of Shabbat in Israel, that the prime minister had authorized his negotiating team to pursue a deal that would return the hostages and end the war. But an unnamed Israeli official told NBC News that, contrary to what Biden had said, Israel had not offered terms that included a full withdrawal from Gaza.

Plans for Gaza’s postwar governance and reconstruction — and the lack of public ones offered by Netanyahu — have been a sticking point in U.S.-Israel relations over the course of the eight-month war. Ben-Gvir is among a vocal faction of Israelis who have called for Jewish resettlement in Gaza after the war.

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