Biden touts new “Israeli” ceasefire proposal, nearly identical to previous proposals Israel rejected – National & International News – FRI 31May2024


The new “Israeli” ceasefire proposal, presented by Biden, is nearly identical to a Hamas proposal from February.

Biden authorizes Ukraine to use US weapons inside Russia.

Biden touts new “Israeli” ceasefire proposal, nearly identical to Hamas proposal from February

In a White House press event today, President Biden announced a proposal that would permanently end hostilities in Gaza. The outline of the deal, as presented by Biden, is as follows (each phase is about 6 weeks):

1st Phase:

  • Complete ceasefire
  • 600 trucks of humanitarian aid/day
  • Israel to withdraw troops from populated areas in Gaza
  • Gazans allowed to return to their homes, including in the north of Gaza.
  • Release of some hostages, including female soldiers, sick, elderly and wounded, and remains of some deceased hostages.
  • Release of some Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
  • Temporary shelters to enter Gaza.
  • Negotiations to get to…

2nd Phase:

  • A permanent cessation of hostilities.
  • A full withdraw of Israeli troops from Gaza.
  • Release of remaining living hostages, including male soldiers.

3rd Phase:

  • Reconstruction of Gaza to begin.
  • Release of final remains of deceased hostages.

Whose plan is it anyway?

While Biden called this an “Israeli” plan, it is nearly identical to a plan Hamas proposed back in February and substantially similar to a plan to which Hamas agreed on May 6 (which was backed by the US, UN, Egypt and Qatar). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected both of those agreements at the time.

During Biden’s remarks today, he spent a great deal more time during his speech trying to sell Israel on the deal than urging Hamas to accept it. Statements from Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and even a statement from Hamas all seem to characterize this as a Biden initiative.

Biden’s remarks also subtly, but not explicitly, called out Netanyahu, rejecting his oft-used rhetoric saying that the war would continue until “total victory”. Biden said, “Indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of ‘total victory’… will only bog down Israel in Gaza, draining the economic, military and human resources, and furthering Israel’s isolation in the world”. He also said that, if Hamas comes to the table, “Israel’s negotiators must be given the mandate and the necessary flexibility to close that deal”. In January, Netanyahu unilaterally rejected a  proposal that Israel’s negotiators had agreed to. 

A Palestinian official involved in the negotiations told Reuters, “Hamas sees Biden’s position now more focused on pressuring Israel to return to negotiations with a different attitude, or they (Israel) could risk clashing with the Americans”. a Palestinian official close to the mediation efforts told Reuters.

One political analyst told Al-Jazeera that framing this as an Israeli proposal was likely Biden’s attempt “to put Netanyahu in a spot where it becomes more difficult for him to say ‘no’ to this”.

Netanyahu’s response and Biden’s off-ramp

While Netanyahu has not explicitly disavowed this proposal, his office issued a statement that seems at odds with Biden’s presentation. It says, in part, that Israel’s “actual proposal” would “enable Israel to continue the war until all its objectives are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities”.

Earlier this week, a group representing the families of hostages said that a representative from Netanyahu’s office told them Netanyahu would not agree to an end to the war to get the hostages back, unless it would benefit him in public opinion polls.

However, Netanyahu may not currently be in a position to pick a fight with Biden (at least publicly). Netanyahu’s position has deteriorated significantly since he rejected the two previous similar proposals. Last week, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Days later, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to cease its military offensive in Rafah. Rather than complying, Israel bombed a refugee encampment in Rafah on Sunday, killing at least 45 Gazans including many children. The images of burned bodies and decapitated babies that circulated afterward provoked intense international outrage. 

If Israel agrees to this proposal, it would also release Biden from a tricky situation. Algeria’s UN Security Council delegation is formulating a resolution demanding Israel cease its Rafah campaign. If this resolution comes up for a vote, Biden would be in the embarrassing position of (likely) vetoing yet another UNSC ceasefire resolution.

The hypocrisy of this would be inescapable. On March 10, Biden declared any invasion of Rafah to be a “red line” for his support for Israel’s military campaign. Since Israel launched its Rafah invasion on May 7, Biden has had to continually walk this back. Even after Israel’s bombing of the tent encampment, and reports that Israeli tanks are now in central Rafah, the White House still insisted that the “red line” hadn’t been crossed. 


Biden authorizes Ukraine to use US weapons inside Russia

While Biden seeks to wind down the war in Israel, he’s opened the door to escalation in the war between Ukraine and Russia. After weeks of pressure from the international community, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Biden agreed yesterday to allow Ukraine to use its US-supplied weapons within Russia. However, Biden restricted this authorization to targets near Ukraine’s eastern border province of Kharkiv, where Russia is currently mounting a successful offensive. Russia’s Kharkiv offensive has forced the evacuation of over 11,000 people since it began on May 10. Over the weekend, Russia struck a crowded garden supply shop in Kharkhiv that killed at least 16 people and wounded dozens. 

Biden also urged Ukraine not to hit civilian targets within Russia and to restrict their strikes to legitimate military targets. In fact, Ukraine has already carried out strikes within Russia, including civilian targets. Earlier this month, Ukraine struck an apartment building in Belgorod, across the border from Kharkiv, killing 15 people. Belogorod has been a military staging ground for Russia since the war began, and many of the missiles and drones Russia has recently launched in to Kharkiv came from Belgorod.

Perhaps more worryingly, Ukraine has also reportedly struck radar posts deep within Russia which are part of the country’s early nuclear launch detection system. A US official has already warned Kyiv against pursuing such attacks, “because Russia could perceive that its strategic deterrent capabilities are being targeted, which could undermine Russia’s ability to maintain nuclear deterrence against the United States”.

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