June 13, 2024

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Israeli official says Biden’s description of ceasefire offer is “inaccurate”

Israeli official says Biden’s description of ceasefire offer is “inaccurate”

JERUSALEM — A senior Israeli official told NBC News that President Joe Biden’s characterization of Israel’s ceasefire proposal is “inaccurate,” with doubts growing Monday about the U.S. ally’s stance on the deal.

Biden said in a Sudden announcement On Friday he was presenting the broad outlines of a truce proposal made by Israel and passed by mediators to Hamas.

But with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing competing pressures — from Washington and the families of the hostages on the one hand, and right-wing ministers threatening to bring down his government on the other — a senior Israeli official questioned Biden’s characterization of the ceasefire offer.

Officials specifically denied that Israel had agreed to completely withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip as part of the hostage release deal.

He added, “Israel has not changed its conditions for reaching a permanent ceasefire. The official said that this will not happen until we achieve our goals, including destroying Hamas’ military and governance capabilities.

The official also said that while the White House described the plan as coming from Israel, it was in fact a proposal made by mediators and to which Israel had made modifications and changes.

The official said: “It is strange that they say it is an Israeli proposal and at the same time Israel must approve it.” The official added that Israel is awaiting Hamas’s official response to the proposal.

Biden explained the proposal in a speech at the White House on Friday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Biden said on Friday that the proposal was sent to the militant group via Qatar, which helped broker the talks months ago.

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A Hamas spokesman said that the movement “views positively” what was included in Biden’s speech. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry confirmed on Monday that Hamas views the proposal positively, and said that everyone is waiting for Israel’s response.

Biden said Israel presented the “comprehensive new proposal” that would eventually lead to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Biden said the three-part plan would include the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas in Gaza and the release of a number of hostages held inside the Strip since the Hamas-led attack on October 7. The first phase of the plan will also see a full six-week truce.

“You cannot count the hostages until they return to their homeland.”

Biden’s speech put Netanyahu under renewed pressure at home and abroad.

Two of his right-wing ministers threatened to withdraw from the coalition that keeps him in power if he agreed to the ceasefire agreement specified by Biden. Israeli media I mentioned Monday Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with hardline National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to discuss his threats to resign from the government.

Meanwhile, families of Israeli hostages have intensified their demands for the government to reach an agreement that could guarantee the release of their loved ones.

Rachel Goldberg Pauline, whose son Hersh has been detained in Gaza since October 7, said Monday that Biden’s proposal left her hopeful but still cautious.

“You can’t count the hostages until they come home and you hug them,” she told NBC News in an interview in Jerusalem, adding: “I like to think this is the beginning of the end.”

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Goldberg Pauline criticized Israeli government officials who say continuing the war is more important than bringing the remaining hostages home. “If you believe in the righteousness of continuing this, let us stop it for five hours, take out those 125, and you, put your son and daughter and mother and brother and sister and grandfather and child in there and continue your war with your father.” She said: The people are there. “Our people have served their sentence in hell for nine months.”

The Biden administration also continued its pressure campaign over the weekend.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Defense Cabinet member Benny Gantz late Sunday, telling them that he “committed” Israel for the proposal and that the onus now fell on Hamas to accept it, according to a summary of the report. Calls issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said Monday that a ceasefire agreement would provide much-needed relief to Palestinians in Gaza, where the Israeli military operation in Rafah has prompted more than a million people to flee the southern city.

The Israeli army said that its forces were continuing “targeted, intelligence-based operations” in Rafah, after penetrating deep into the city, despite American warnings.

Although Biden described it as an Israeli proposal, Netanyahu has not yet responded publicly and the country’s official position was not immediately clear. NBC News reached out to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office for clarification.

His office issued a statement on Saturday saying that Israel’s conditions for ending the war had not changed, and that a permanent ceasefire was “unstartable” until it was met.

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But in an interview with the British newspaper The Sunday Times, Ofir Falk, Netanyahu’s chief foreign policy adviser, said that Israel does not reject the deal. “It was a deal we agreed to, and it’s not a good deal, but we desperately want the hostages released,” Falk said.

Raf Sanchez reported from Jerusalem, and Yulia Talmazan reported from London.