Netanyahu torpedoes Biden's truce deal, vows to continue war on Gaza

A sign depicting Benjamin Netanyahu is pictured in Ashkelon, Israel as protesters attend a demonstration against his regime and to demand a deal to release all hostages held in Gaza, on June 19, 2024. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

The viability of a US-backed proposal to wind down the eight-month-long Israeli war on besieged Gaza has been cast into doubt after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would only be willing to agree to a "partial" ceasefire deal that would not end the war.

In an interview broadcast late on Sunday on Israeli Channel 14, a conservative, pro-Netanyahu station, the Israeli hawkish leader said he was "prepared to make a partial deal — this is no secret — that will return to us some of the people," referring to the roughly 116 hostages still held in the Gaza.

"But we are committed to continuing the war after a pause, in order to complete the goal of eliminating Hamas. I’m not willing to give up on that."

Netanyahu's comments did not deviate dramatically from what he has said previously about his terms for a deal. But they come at a sensitive time, as Israel and US administration appear to be moving further apart over how to enter a ceasefire in Gaza.

Netanyahu's comments stood in sharp contrast to the outlines of the deal detailed late last month by US President Joe Biden, who framed the plan as an Israeli one and which some in Israel refer to as "Netanyahu’s deal."

Netanyahu's remarks could further strain Israel's ties to the US, its top ally, which launched a major diplomatic push for the latest cease-fire proposal.

How the deal plays out

The three-phased plan would bring about the release of the remaining hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians abducted by Israel — some 9,500 according to Palestinian estimates.

During the initial six-week phase of the proposed ceasefire, the sides are supposed to negotiate an agreement on the second phase, which Biden said would include the release of all remaining living hostages including male soldiers and Israel’s full withdrawal from Gaza. The temporary ceasefire would become permanent.

Hamas has insisted it will not release the remaining hostages unless there's a permanent ceasefire and a full withdrawal of Israeli invaders from Gaza. When Biden announced the latest proposal, he said it included both.

But Netanyahu says Israel is still committed to destroying Hamas' military and governing capabilities. Both working as well as retired Israeli military officials have said Netanyahu's goal is unlikely and unconvincing.

In the interview, Netanyahu said the current phase of fighting is ending, setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to its northern border to confront Hezbollah, in what could open up a new war front. But he said that didn't mean the war in Gaza was over.

On Monday, Israel's Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant discussed tensions on the border with Lebanon during his trip to Washington with Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to Biden.

He echoed Netanyahu's comments that the war in Gaza is transitioning to a new phase, which could impact other conflicts, including with Hezbollah.

Israel maintains "full control” over the Philadelphi Corridor, a strategic buffer zone along Gaza's border with Egypt, Israel's military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said.

'Netanyahu’s attempts of evasion'

Hamas appears concerned that Israel will resume the war once its most vulnerable hostages are returned.

And even if it doesn't, Israel could make demands in that stage of negotiations that were not part of the initial deal and are unacceptable to Hamas — and then resume the war when Hamas refuses them.

Netanyahu's remarks reinforced that concern.

After they were aired, Hamas said they represented "unmistakable confirmation of his rejection" of the US-supported deal, which also received the backing of the United Nations’ Security Council.

In a statement late on Sunday after Netanyahu’s lengthy TV interview, the Palestinian resistance group said his position was "in contrast" to what the US administration said Israel had approved.

Hamas said its insistence that any deal should include a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Israelis from Gaza "was an inevitable necessity to block Netanyahu’s attempts of evasion, deception, and perpetuation of aggression and the war of extermination against our people."

Hamas welcomed the broad outline of the US plan but proposed what it said were "amendments." US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a visit to the region earlier this month, said some of Hamas' demands were "workable" and some were not, without elaborating.

Families outraged

The families of hostages meanwhile have grown increasingly impatient with hawkish Netanyahu, seeing his apparent reluctance to move ahead on a deal as tainted by political considerations.

A group representing the families condemned Netanyahu's remarks, which it viewed as an Israeli rejection of the latest cease-fire proposal.

"This is an abandonment of the 120 hostages and a violation of the state's moral duty toward its citizens," it said, noting that it held Netanyahu responsible for returning all the captives.

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu repeated his claim that a "dramatic drop" in arms shipments from the US was hindering the war effort.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that he doesn't understand Netanyahu's comments and that Biden has delayed only one shipment of heavy bombs over concerns about heavy civilian casualties.

"There are other weapons that we continue to provide Israel as we have done going back years and years, because we are committed to Israel’s security," Miller told reporters in Washington. "There has been no change in that."


Source: TRT