Israel confirms Gaza hostage-ceasefire deal proposal details laid out by Biden


Israel confirmed President Biden’s speech on Friday described “in general” the Israeli proposal for a hostage-ceasefire deal in Gaza but emphasized Israel can resume fighting if it thinks Hamas violates the deal at any point.

Why it matters: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides are focusing on the aspects of the potential deal that are more favorable to Israel as the prime minister faces opposition to the proposal that could threaten the future of his coalition.

  • U.S. officials said they are encouraged that Netanyahu hasn’t pushed backed on Biden’s speech or denied it reflects the Israeli proposal delivered to Hamas several days ago.

State of play: Shortly after the Jewish Sabbath ended, Netanyahu’s ultranationalist coalition partners ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich issued statements attacking the Israeli proposal, which they heard about for the first time in Biden’s speech.

  • They said they told Netanyahu if this proposal goes through and turns into a deal, they will leave the coalition and topple the government.
  • Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid responded by issuing a statement committing to give Netanyahu a political “safety net” if needed in order to pass the deal.

The latest: The U.S., Egypt and Qatar issues a joint statement on Saturday calling on both Hamas and Israel to finalize an agreement “embodying the principles outlined by President Biden.”

  • “These principles brought the demands of all parties together in a deal that serves multiple interests and will bring immediate relief both to the long-suffering people of Gaza as well as the long-suffering hostages and their families.”

Biden administration officials worked the phones on Friday and Saturday to get statements of support from U.S. allies and Arab countries.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar.
  • The Emirati foreign minister issued a statement praising Biden’s speech and the Saudi foreign minister said his country supports any proposal that will end the war.
  • French president Emmanuel Macron, British foreign minister David Cameron and EU foreign minister Joseph Borrell also issued statements of support for Biden’s speech.

Driving the news: Biden said in his speech that even if a deal is reached and a ceasefire begins, Israel has the right to defend itself and “bring those responsible for October 7 to justice” — and could resume military operations if Hamas “fails to fulfill its commitments.”

  • Two Netanyahu aides emphasized in a briefing that according to the proposal, Israel reserves the right to resume fighting at any time if Hamas violates its obligations under the deal. Those conditions could include not releasing the number of hostages agreed upon, or if Israel gets the impression that the negotiations in phase two of the deal are fruitless and used by Hamas to buy time.
  • The aides said Israel’s conditions for the end of the war have not changed: destroying Hamas’ militant wing and the group’s ability to govern, the release of all hostages and ensuring Hamas can’t attack Israel in the future.

“The proposal for the release of hostages allows Israel to make sure that all of these conditions will be realized before a permanent ceasefire takes effect,” they said.

  • Netanyahu’s aides stressed that Israel will insist that the implementation of the second phase of the deal begins only after an agreement is reached on the terms of the ceasefire.
  • “The proposal says that no later than the 16th day of implementation, indirect negotiations will begin between the two parties in order to forge an agreement on the conditions for the implementation of phase two of this agreement,” a Netanyahu aide said.

Behind the scenes: The White House notified the Israeli prime minister’s office about Biden’s speech about two hours in advance, U.S. officials said.

  • U.S. officials spoke to the Israeli ambassador in Washington Mike Herzog and to one of Netanyahu’s advisers and described the speech to them in broad terms.
  • The White House also informed Israeli War cabinet member minister Benny Gantz and defense minister Yoav Galant in advance about Biden’s speech, a U.S. official told Axios.
  • The U.S. official said the White House was disappointed by Gantz’s initial reaction. But on Saturday, Gantz issued a statement welcoming Biden’s speech and calling on Netanyahu to push forward with a hostage deal.

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