Sunday, June 16, 2024

Netanyahu aide says Biden’s Gaza plan ‘not a good deal’ but Israel accepts it

An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that Israel had accepted a framework ceasefire agreement presented by US President Joe Biden, but described it as flawed and in need of much more work.

Ophir Falk, chief foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, said Biden’s proposal was “a deal we agreed to – it’s not a good deal but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them”.

“There are a lot of details to be worked out,” he stated in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times.

Falk added that Israeli conditions, including “the release of the hostages and the destruction of Hamas” have not changed.

On Friday, Biden detailed a three-phase plan submitted by the Netanyahu government to end the war on Gaza, which includes the release of captives by Hamas, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the enclave, a permanent ceasefire and an exchange of prisoners.

Hamas has provisionally welcomed the Biden initiative, saying it “included positive ideas”.

Netanyahu meanwhile insisted on Hamas’s destruction and the return of the captives before a permanent ceasefire can be put in place.

Falk reiterated Netanyahu’s position that “there will not be a permanent ceasefire until all our objectives are met”.

Netanyahu is under pressure to keep his coalition government intact.

While many Israelis are urging the prime minister to embrace the deal, his far-right allies, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, are threatening to topple his government if he does.

Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition holds a slim majority in parliament and is dependent on his far-right allies.

If the ultra-nationalist parties quit, it could expose Netanyahu to new elections and prosecution on longstanding corruption charges, in addition to scrutiny over security failures that led to the war.

But on Saturday, opposition leader Yair Lapid, who last week accused Netanyahu of prioritising his political survival, was quick to offer his support to the prime minister if he adopted the new ceasefire proposal.

Lapid, whose party holds 24 seats in parliament, stated on Saturday that Netanyahu could rely on his party’s votes to secure a deal.

“The Israeli government cannot ignore” Biden, Lapid continued, adding, “There is a deal on the table, and it needs to be done. I remind Netanyahu that he has a safety net from us for the hostage deal if Ben Gvir and Smotrich leave the government.”

A huge demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, led by families of the captives, called on Netanyahu to strike a ceasefire agreement.

On Sunday, an Israeli official told US news outlet CBS that Netanyahu and his war cabinet have approved Biden’s ceasefire proposal and are awaiting Hamas’s response.

The official maintained that Netanyahu would not agree to a permanent ceasefire without fulfilling Israel’s war goals, including returning all Israeli captives held in Gaza and the “destruction” of Hamas and its capabilities.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby has stated if Hamas agrees to President Joe Biden’s ceasefire proposal to end the war, the US expects Israel to also accept the plan.

“This was an Israeli proposal. We have every expectation that if Hamas agrees to the proposal – as was transmitted to them, an Israeli proposal – then Israel would say yes,” Kirby said in an interview on the ABC News programme This Week.

Netanyahu stressed a day earlier that its military goal had remained unchanged and that the end of the war would not occur until Hamas had been “destroyed”.

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