President Biden giving a speech Friday night about a ceasefire deal (video clip)

President Biden, seemingly speaking for the Israeli government, proposed an astonishing plan for a “durable end to the war” that has sent shockwaves through Israeli political circles. This plan, which has been met with skepticism and criticism, appears to cater to international appeasement rather than addressing Israel's crucial objectives, such as the decisive defeat and banishment of Hamas from Gaza.

Biden boldly described the plan as a comprehensive Israeli proposal, following what he termed “intensive diplomacy” and discussions with leaders from Qatar, Egypt, Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries. However, the inclusion of Qatar, a known supporter of Hamas and harborer of its leaders, has been perceived as a blatant insult by some members of the Israeli cabinet. Qatar, which could have pressured Hamas to release hostages months ago, stands accused of facilitating the terrorist organization's persistence. Similarly, Egypt's involvement has drawn ire, especially after revelations of at least 20 terror tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons.

In a controversial move, Biden delivered his speech just as the Jewish Sabbath was commencing. By the time the Sabbath concluded, Israeli media was ablaze with contradictions and reports suggesting that Israel had not been adequately consulted on the proposal.

Israel's military operations in Gaza, now stretching into their eighth month, have inflicted substantial damage on Hamas's infrastructure and resulted in the deaths of nearly 15,000 militants. Yet, the battle for Rafah rages on, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to torment hostage families with cruel videos, the latest featuring the voice of Noa Argamani. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, over 36,000 Palestinians have been killed, a figure which controversially includes both civilians and combatants. The ministry insists the majority of the deceased are women and children, a claim that starkly contrasts with UN reports, which estimate only 15,000 fall into these categories. Israel, on the other hand, recounts the brutal toll of Hamas's October 7 attack, with over 1,200 Israeli lives lost and approximately 252 individuals taken hostage. A temporary halt in fighting in November saw the release of 105 hostages, including foreign nationals.

The heads of Israel's two right-wing parties, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit, have threatened to dismantle the government should the proposed hostage release and ceasefire deal be adopted. They argue this deal would prematurely end the war, leaving Hamas undefeated. Their parties, critical to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 64-seat coalition, have vowed to withdraw if the proposal proceeds.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid has promised a political safety net for Netanyahu to ensure the government does not collapse over this deal. However, Lapid’s Yesh Atid party will not support the coalition on other matters. He insists, seemingly willing to allow Hamas to regrpup and reassert control over Gaza once again that “Israel must do this deal, now… before the hostages die there [in Gaza].”  Lapid's lack of backing for any other government intitiative would essentially mean the collapse of the government and his offer to support the peace initiative is just an empty gesture.

In stark contrast, National Unity party chief and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz called for an immediate war cabinet meeting to “formulate steps for going forward,” implying the proposal might already have the war cabinet's approval. Gantz’s party, although holding only eight seats, joined the coalition after Hamas's October 7 onslaught, with threats to leave if Netanyahu does not make strategic decisions by June 8.

In his Friday night speech, President Biden, portraying it as an Israeli initiative, revealed a new proposal for a ceasefire and hostage deal, submitted on Thursday to Hamas via Qatar. He outlined the proposal’s key elements and urged both Hamas and the Israeli government to support it. As of this writing, no Israeli has come forward taking credit for putting together the deal.

The first phase, lasting six weeks, demands a full ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from all populated areas in Gaza. Female, elderly, and wounded hostages would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners but there is no timeline for their return and no idea of how many of these hostages are still alive. Biden specified that American hostages and remains of the deceased would also be returned. Displaced Palestinians would return to their homes, with 600 aid trucks entering Gaza daily, ensuring the aid is “safely and effectively distributed.” 

The second phase, dependent on ongoing negotiations, aims to release all remaining hostages, including male soldiers, with Israeli forces completely withdrawing from Gaza.

In the final phase, any remaining hostages' remains would be returned. This phase involves a massive, internationally-backed reconstruction plan for Gaza, described by a senior Biden administration official as an extensive three-to-five-year program for rehabilitation and stabilization.

Biden passionately declared, “It’s time to begin this new stage, for the hostages to come home, for Israel to be secure, for the suffering to stop. It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin.”

This proposal has undoubtedly stirred significant debate and poses critical questions about the future of the conflict and the stability of Netanyahu's government.

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