Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu backs away from Biden's Gaza ceasefire proposal

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu backs away from Biden's Gaza ceasefire proposal
After a crunch meeting of the Israeli war cabinet, Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu is allegedly backing off a peace proposal backed by the US.
3 min read
03 June, 2024
Netanyahu is attempting to keep anti-peace far-right ministers in his government onside [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed away from the US-backed plan to end the war on Gaza, as he faces internal opposition from far-right members of his coalition government, according to a report by The Financial Times on Monday.

Israel’s war cabinet met late on Sunday to discuss the ceasefire proposal, with officials close to the Israeli prime minister making it clear that a permanent end to the war on Gaza would be unacceptable.

Just hours after Biden delivered an unprecedented speech outlining what he said was an Israeli proposal for a permanent end to the war, Netanyahu sought to clarify and contradict the scope of the deal outlined by the US president.

On Saturday, the office of the Israeli PM said in a statement that any deal must allow "Israel to continue the war until all its objectives are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities".

This was followed by a direct statement from Netanyahu, saying: "Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter."

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Ophir Falk, Netanyahu’s chief foreign policy advisor, 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 said, adding that Israeli conditions, including "the release of the hostages and the destruction of Hamas as a genocidal terrorist organisation", have not changed.

Live Story

In his speech, Biden insisted that Israel’s assault on Gaza had rendered Hamas incapable of carrying out another attack similar to that of 7 October and that Israel ought to consider this the fulfilment of their war aims.

The widening contradiction between Washington's stance on the peace proposal and Israel's position emerged as internal fissures within the Israeli government became apparent over the weekend.

On Saturday, far-right government ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich publicly said that they would resign - and therefore collapse the Israeli government - if the deal were to be accepted, citing the necessity to achieve total victory over Hamas.

Israeli media has reported that these threats have prompted Netanyahu to meet with Ben-Gvir on Monday, with the premier ready to show the far-right National Security Minister the draft of the proposal publicised by Biden on Friday.

Netanyahu will apparently try to bring Ben-Gvir on his side by proving that there is no clause in the deal obligating Israel to end the fighting in Gaza, contradicting what Biden said in his speech. 

Meanwhile, the leading centrist minister in Netanyahu’s war cabinet, Benny Gantz, has taken the opposite view of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, saying the return of hostages "is a supreme moral obligation" and a goal that should take "clear priority on the timeline", as quoted by the FT.

With Hamas reacting positively to Biden’s announcement of the deal, the pressure seems to be fully on Netanyahu, caught between keeping his far-right coalition together and meeting US expectations for accepting peace.

On Saturday, the three main peace mediators - Egypt, Qatar, and the US - issued a joint statement calling on Hamas and Israel to "finalise the agreement embodying the principles outlined by President Biden".