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Netanyahu seems to contradict Biden cease-fire offer: ‘Non-starter’ if all conditions not met

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Jun 1, 2024

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement on Saturday that seemed to contradict President Biden’s comments that would end the war in Gaza. 

Netanyahu’s office said that Israel’s conditions for ending the war – the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel – had not changed. 

In the second part of the statement posted on X, his office continued, “The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent cease-fire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter.”

In a speech from the White House on Friday, Biden presented what he called “a roadmap to an enduring cease-fire and the release of all hostages,” which he said came after intensive diplomacy carried out by a U.S. team with the leaders of Israel, Qatar, and Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

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Biden said the plan for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, a return of all the hostages to Israel and rebuilding the war-torn territory – without allowing Hamas to return to power in any format – was part of “a comprehensive new proposal” that Israel had already offered Hamas. 

While both Israel and Hamas responded hesitantly to the challenge laid out by President Biden to permanently end the war in Gaza and release the 125 people taken hostage by the Iranian-backed terror group during its brutal attack against Israel on October 7, critics were quick to jump on the plan’s shortcomings. 

Critics have already jumped on the Biden offer. Former Trump National Security Advisor and FDD senior adviser Richard Goldberg told Fox News Digital, “To be clear, the president has just repackaged a Hamas proposal as a U.S.-endorsed Israeli proposal, perhaps believing this would make an Israeli surrender to Hamas more palatable to Israelis.”

On Thursday, the Israeli military announced that it had taken control of the so-called “Philadelphi Corridor,” an eight-mile-long strip of land that runs along the border between Gaza and Egypt. Israel said the move aimed to weaken Hamas by cutting it off from tunnels used to smuggle weapons and ammunition into the Palestinian enclave. It also served as another blow to the terror group’s governing capabilities, which have been steadily diminishing through the eight-month war, even as it consistently turns down proposals for a cease-fire. 

In a statement also on Saturday, Hamas said that it viewed the president’s plan positively, particularly “his call for a permanent cease-fire, the withdrawal of [Israeli] forces from Gaza Strip, reconstruction and an exchange of prisoners.”

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Biden’s speech caught many in Israel off-guard. Given after the start of the Jewish sabbath, when many observant Israelis switch off phones and television sets, Israeli news commentators doubted that Netanyahu’s office had been made aware that the president was going to make such an address.

As he laid out his plan live on air, some wondered why the president had gone behind Netanyahu’s back to leak details of an offer to Hamas, which one day earlier had said it had rejected Israel’s proposal.

There was also confusion about whether Biden was really presenting the same plan that Netanyahu’s government had approved or whether it was a modified version. 

A spokesperson for the National Security Council (NSC) told Fox News Digital that it was the same plan. 

In his speech, the president said the plan consisted of three phases: the first, which would take six weeks, would see a full and complete cease-fire, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza and a release of a number of hostages. In exchange, Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and allow Gaza’s civilians to return to their homes and neighborhoods in all of the Strip. 

Humanitarian assistance, he said, would surge “with 600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza every single day.”

Phase two would see the release of all remaining hostages, including male soldiers, after which the cease-fire would become permanent. A third phase would involve major reconstruction of Gaza, which has largely been destroyed by eight months of fighting. 

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid urged the government to consider the proposal, saying that it “cannot ignore President Biden’s important speech.”

“There is a deal on the table, and it needs to be made – I remind Netanyahu that he has a ‘safety net’ from us to make a deal, should Ben Gvir and Smotrich leave the government,” said Lapid, referring to hardline government ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich, who are likely to reject any suggestion that Israel end the war without completely defeating Hamas. 

Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this story.

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