Thu 13 Jun 2024 3:02 pm - Jerusalem Time

The ambiguity of the American position regarding the details of the ceasefire proposal threatens the collapse of the negotiations

The proposal announced by US President Joe Biden on May 31 is largely shrouded in ambiguity, and he said at the time that it was an Israeli proposal, which it did not adopt in the form of a UN Security Council resolution on Monday, June 10, after 14 members of the Council voted in favor of the resolution, while Russia abstained from voting, despite a major American marketing campaign around the world that made it gain global support.

While the Hamas movement welcomed the Security Council's resolution and considered it positive and a basis for negotiation, it responded to it officially, offering some amendments. The Israeli position remains ambiguous, as the official Israeli comments did not show any signs of adopting the proposal, apart from the insistence of Israeli officials on going to war until... To achieve its goals of eliminating Palestinian resistance factions fighting Israel in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also publicly objected to aspects of the plan, raising questions about Israel's commitment to what the United States says is an Israeli proposal.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on his eighth visit to the region since October 7, told reporters in Qatar on Wednesday that negotiations would continue, but he also said that Hamas had requested “numerous” changes, adding that “some changes are implementable; some are not.”

Blinken declined to provide further details, but recent statements by Israeli officials as well as from the Hamas movement indicate that the two sides still disagree on many of the same issues that the mediators have been trying to overcome for months.

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas insists that it will not release the remaining hostages unless there is a permanent ceasefire and a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the entire Gaza Strip.

It is noteworthy that President Joe Biden's proposal, according to his speech from the White House on May 31, included the two points demanded by Hamas. .

Netanyahu insists that Israel remains committed to destroying the military capabilities and political control of Hamas in Gaza, and ensuring that it is never again able to carry out an attack similar to the October 7 attack, which Biden said in his proposal had been achieved.

Experts believe that the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from Gaza, where Hamas's field command and a large portion of its forces and cadres remain intact, would almost certainly enable the movement to maintain political control over the Strip.

A number of experts say this is partly because Israel has not yet put forward a plan to govern Gaza after the war, and has rejected a US proposal that has broad regional support because it would require significant progress toward creating a Palestinian state.

It is noteworthy that Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha told Lebanese media on Wednesday that the “amendments” requested by the movement aim to ensure a permanent ceasefire and complete Israeli withdrawal.

Hamas also seeks the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including political and military leaders. But it is unclear whether the parties have agreed on a list of names of people to be released, or whether they will be released in Gaza or the occupied West Bank or sent into exile.

The ceasefire plan calls for an initial six-week phase in which Hamas would release some hostages — including women, the elderly and the wounded — in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from populated areas. Palestinian civilians will be able to return to their homes and humanitarian aid will be intensified.

But after that, things become more difficult, according to experts. The two sides are supposed to use this six-week period 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 complete withdrawal from Gaza. The temporary ceasefire will then become permanent, but only if the two sides agree on the details.

Hamas also appears to be concerned that Israel will resume the war once its most vulnerable hostages are returned. Even if that does not happen, Israel could make demands at that stage of the negotiations that were not part of the initial deal and are unacceptable to Hamas – and then resume the war when Hamas rejects them.

It is noteworthy that Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said that Israel will demand in these negotiations the removal of Hamas from power. Erdan said on CNN on Monday: “We cannot agree to Hamas continuing to control Gaza, because Gaza will continue to pose a threat to Israel.”

Israel also appears concerned about the plan's provision that stipulates extending the initial ceasefire as long as negotiations for the second phase continue. Erdan said this would allow Hamas to “continue endless and meaningless negotiations.”

There are also other issues that may lead to the collapse of ceasefire efforts, starting with the complete lack of trust between Israel and Hamas, which have fought five wars since 2008, while Israel has imposed an absolute blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2005.

According to the Associated Press, “There is intense and contradictory pressure on Netanyahu, which may explain his conflicting signals regarding the proposal, and thousands of Israelis, including the families of the hostages, have been protesting in recent months to demand that the government return the prisoners to their homeland, even at the expense of an unbalanced deal.” With Hamas, but the far-right partners in Netanyahu's increasingly narrow coalition rejected the US-backed plan and threatened to bring down his government if he ended the war without destroying Hamas.

According to the statements of their officials (such as Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Minister Smotrich), the Israeli right wants to reoccupy Gaza, encourage “voluntary migration” of Palestinians from the Strip and rebuild Jewish settlements there. Netanyahu's ultra-nationalist allies have greater influence over him than at any time since the start of the war after Benny Gantz, a centrist political opposition figure, resigned last Sunday from Israel's war cabinet.


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The ambiguity of the American position regarding the details of the ceasefire proposal threatens the collapse of the negotiations