Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir and radical right political activist Bentzi Gopstein in Sheikh Jarrah. February 2022

By Dave DeCamp / Antiwar.com

On Sunday, a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Gaza ceasefire proposal put forward by President Biden while also insisting that Israel was not rejecting the deal.

Biden outlined the details of the potential deal on Friday, framing it as an Israeli proposal, but Israeli officials have distanced themselves from it. Ophir Falk, Netanyahu’s top foreign policy advisor, told The Sunday Times that Biden had made “a political speech for whatever reasons.”

In his speech, Biden said it was time “for this war to end” and said the first phase of the three-phase deal would involve negotiations to reach “a permanent end to hostilities.” But the next day, Netanyahu released a statement calling the idea of a permanent ceasefire before Israel achieved its goal of “destroying” Hamas a “non-starter.”

Falk reaffirmed Netanyahu’s position on Sunday. “There are a lot of details to be worked out and that includes there will not be a permanent ceasefire until all our objectives are met,” he said.

Falk also claimed Israel was not rejecting the proposal, which he called “a deal we agreed to — it’s not a good deal, but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them.” But he added that Israel’s conditions “have not changed — the release of the hostages and the destruction of Hamas as a genocidal terrorist organization.”

Netanyahu is under pressure from within his own government to reject Biden’s proposal. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir are threatening to resign and bring down the coalition government if Netanyahu accepts the ceasefire deal.

“I just spoke with the prime minister and made it clear that I will not be part of a government that agrees to the proposed outline and ends the war without destroying Hamas and bringing back all the hostages,” Smotrich said on Saturday.

For its part, Hamas released a statement saying the Palestinian group viewed what Biden proposed on Friday “positively.” A senior US official told Haaretz that the proposal was “nearly identical” to one Hamas accepted from Egypt a few weeks ago, on the day that Israel launched its assault on Rafah.

The first phase of the potential deal would involve a six-week ceasefire, the exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and negotiations toward a permanent ceasefire. In the second phase, Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza, and Hamas would release the remaining Israeli hostages for more Palestinian prisoners. The third phase would see the beginning of a “major reconstruction” plan for Gaza.

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Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.

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