Skip to main content

What is the Gaza ceasefire deal presented by Joe Biden?

What is the Israel-Hamas Gaza ceasefire deal presented by Joe Biden?
6 min read
01 June, 2024
With Joe Biden presenting an Israeli-proposed 'comprehensive' peace deal for Gaza, The New Arab takes a closer look at its details.
There is a widespread feeling that Biden wants to definitively end the war in the run up to the presidential election in November [Getty]

On Friday, US President Joe Biden announced a three-phase 'Israeli proposal' that aims to end the war on Gaza.

The “comprehensive” plan includes a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Biden’s announcement came as previous efforts to reach a ceasefire deal faltered. Last month, Hamas accepted a full Egypt-Qatar ceasefire plan, also supported by the US, which would have seen all Israeli captives released.

However, Israel rejected the deal and pressed ahead with a brutal military assault into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which has forcibly displaced about 1 million Palestinians over the past month.

The New Arab looks into the details of this new plan, its timing and framing by the US and how Hamas and other interested parties have reacted to it.

What does the Gaza ceasfire plan involve?

Phase 1

The plan is split into three interrelated phases, the first of which Biden said would involve a “full and complete ceasefire” lasting six weeks.

Within those six weeks, Hamas would release and return a number of both Israeli and American captives, comprising the elderly, women, the wounded and the bodies of those who have died.

Live Story

In exchange for this, hundreds of Palestinian captives held in Israeli jails will also be released.

Palestinian civilians will also be allowed to return to their homes in the north of Gaza, a key Hamas demand.

Given Israel has destroyed most of the civil infrastructure and residential areas of the north, Biden says that “600 trucks per day” will enter the enclave, with the international community providing hundreds of thousands of temporary housing units.

In this initial six-week timeframe, Biden says Israel and Hamas will “negotiate the necessary arrangements to get to phase two, which is a permanent end to hostilities”.

As long as negotiations continue, the ceasefire could continue beyond six weeks, with Qatar, Egypt and the US ensuring its progress, Biden said.

Live Story

Phase 2 and 3

The second phase will involve the complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, lasting another six weeks.

In return, Hamas will release “all remaining living hostages”. This includes male Israeli soldiers.

Providing both sides stick to the terms of the agreement, this will lead the “cessation of hostilities permanently,” according to Biden quoting the Israeli proposal.

Phase 3 entails a reconstruction and stabilisation plan for Gaza, supported by the US and international community.

Residential areas, schools and hospitals will be rebuilt, Biden claims. He also says that he US would work with regional partners to ensure it happens in a way that “does not allow Hamas to rearm.”

This phase will last 3-5 years.

Why is the deal happening now?

Many wonder why Israel is proposing this plan now, especially given it rejected an almost identical proposal mediated by Qatar and Egypt, and accepted by Hamas, on 6 May.

The unilateral unveiling of the plan by the US, on behalf of Israel, could be an attempt to put all the pressure on Hamas, given the deal explicitly calls for the group to, at the very least, lose all power. If Hamas reject this, Israel will attempt to justify their brutal war on Gaza by blaming Hamas for not accepting these terms. 

Live Story

It could also be due to mounting pressure on Biden to push Israel to end the war amid Israel’s brutal assault on Rafah, something his administration had previously called a red line, despite the US policy of supplying weapons to Israel not changing.

Israeli attacks on Rafah have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Palestinians, sparking global outrage. Since the war began in early October, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed over 36,300 Palestinians.

Israel’s siege on the territory, including deliberately blocking humanitarian aid into the enclave, has also fuelled global backlash.

This has led to International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for crimes against humanity, as well as large-scale protests across the world, but particularly in the US.

A new poll released this week indicated that Biden's support among Arab Americans has fallen to less than 20 percent, with that demographic being a key constituency in several US swing states that could decide the upcoming US presidential elections.

Live Story

“Biden's primary concern is to launch the stages of an agreement in Gaza so he can focus on the presidential elections, amid widespread boycotts from Arab, Islamic, and progressive circles against voting for him,” Dr. Azmi Bishara, general director of the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies, said in an interview with The New Arab’s affiliate Al-Araby TV.

Some observers have also speculated that by framing it as an Israeli offer, the Biden administration is attempting to rehabilitate Netanyahu's image.

What has Hamas said about the deal?

Reacting to Biden’s speech on Telegram on Friday, Hamas said it welcomed Biden’s remarks and his call for “a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of [Israel] from the Gaza Strip, reconstruction and prisoners exchange.”

The group also said it was ready to respond “positively and constructively” to any proposal that involves those measures, as well as the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes in Gaza, if Israel “explicitly commits” to it, as well.

What has Israel said about the deal?

This is where much confusion lies. Although the deal is said by Biden to have been drawn up by Israel, there is already some contradiction between Biden’s take on the deal and what Israel is saying about it.

Live Story

While Biden has mentioned Hamas not being allowed to “rearm”, Israel’s language has been much stronger.

The office of Benjamin Netanyahu’s said in a statement that the deal allows “Israel to continue the war until all its objectives are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities”.

Bishara believes that Biden is basically pre-empting or even nullifying Israel’s hawkish stances by imposing US expectations on them.

“Biden used his platform to re-present the Israeli initiative, adding American interpretations that Netanyahu might not like, such as stating that it is time to stop the war, something Netanyahu would not say himself, particularly since these words were not written in the Israeli initiative.”

Live Story

Will the deal succeed?

Given that the deal presented by Biden is almost identical to an earlier one embraced by Hamas, the success of this deal likely lies with Israel and whether it is ready to end its military assault on Gaza. This is something Biden has said he will guarantee, which is a strong statement given Israel’s history of defying the US during the war on Gaza.

Biden even addressed the immovably pro-war far-right of Netanyahu’s government, saying:

“They’ve made it clear: They want to occupy Gaza. They want to keep fighting for years. The hostages are not a priority for them. Well, I urge the leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal despite whatever pressure comes".