‘It’s time for this war to end,’ Biden says, laying out Israeli ceasefire proposal

Biden said that the Israeli public should accept the deal because Israel has already achieved its war aims against Hamas.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

U.S. President Joe Biden laid out the terms of a new Israeli ceasefire-for-hostages proposal on Friday that includes a permanent end to hostilities and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in the State Dining Room at the White House, Biden said Israel proposed a three-phase ceasefire deal to Hamas through Egyptian, Qatari and U.S. mediators.

“For the past several months, my negotiators, of the foreign policy, intelligence community and the like, have been relentlessly focused, not just on a ceasefire that would inevitably be fragile and temporary, but on a durable end of the war,” Biden said. “That’s been the focus—a durable end to this war.”

At a background briefing after the speech, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters that the Israeli proposal was “nearly identical to Hamas’s own proposals.”

“If that’s what Hamas wants, they can take the deal,” the official said. “Alternatively, if its leaders choose to live deep underground, holding innocent hostages, including women, the war goes on and the people of Gaza suffer. That would be their choice.”

Biden described the deal as “the Israeli proposal,” although the senior U.S. official said that “this proposal has been accepted by Israel.”

JNS sought clarity on the apparent discrepancy between the White House and the National Security Council. “This is ultimately an Israeli proposal that was put together in coordination with the U.S., Egypt and Qataris,” a National Security Council spokeswoman told JNS.

The U.S. president said he wants a future “without Hamas in power” but described a series of steps that did not include the elimination of the terror group or its surrender.

“The first phase would last for six weeks,” Biden said. “Here’s what it would include: a full and complete ceasefire. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza. Release of a number of hostages, including women, the elderly, the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”

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That phase, which would also include the return of some of the remains of dead hostages and the continued daily delivery of 600 trucks of aid to the Palestinians, would lead to an indefinite period of negotiations between Israel and Hamas to end the war, he said.

“During the six weeks of phase one, Israel and Hamas would negotiate the necessary arrangements to get to phase two, which is a permanent end to hostilities,” the president added. “The proposal says if the negotiations take longer than six weeks from phase one, the ceasefire will still continue as long as negotiations continue.”

The United States, Egypt and Qatar “would work to ensure negotiations keep going until all the agreements are reached and phase two is able to begin,” Biden added.

In the second phase, “Israeli forces will withdraw from Gaza” and release additional Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of all remaining living hostages, the president said. Quoting the text of the proposal, he said that at that point, the ceasefire would become “the cessation of hostilities permanently.”

The third phase would include the reconstruction of Gaza and the return of any remaining dead hostages.

During the third phase, Biden said that the United States, Arab nations, the international community, along with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, would ensure that Hamas is not allowed to rearm.

The second and third phases are open-ended, allowing for additional negotiation, but the senior U.S. official told reporters that each is envisioned to last about 42 days.

Offer not possible three months ago, says official

According to Biden, Qatar transmitted the Israeli proposal to Hamas “today,” although the U.S. president later referred to the initiative as being made “yesterday.” (“It was transmitted yesterday,” the National Security Council spokeswoman told JNS on Friday.)

Qatar hosts many of Hamas’s leaders in its capital city of Doha. Still, U.S. officials have said that Hamas’s ultimate decision-maker regarding a ceasefire is Yahya Sinwar—the leader of the U.S.-designated foreign terror group—in Gaza and one of the architects of the Oct. 7 attacks.

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Biden said that the Israeli public should accept the deal because Israel has already achieved its war aims against Hamas.

“The people of Israel should know they can make this offer without any further risk to our own security because they’ve devastated Hamas forces over the past eight months,” the president said. “At this point, Hamas no longer is capable of carrying out another Oct. 7.”

The senior U.S. official repeated that point and said Israel’s military operations since Oct. 7 made the deal possible.

“I think the reason the Israelis are able to make this offer is because of some of the success they’ve had in degrading Hamas’s military capacity,” the senior official said. “I don’t think this offer would have been possible three months ago.”

Hamas’s leaders “are dead or in deep hiding,” the senior official added.

Biden did not name Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or any other Israeli politicians but said that Israeli leaders should stand by the deal despite some members of the Israeli cabinet opposing a withdrawal from Gaza.

“I know there are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely. Some are even in the government coalition,” Biden said. “They’ve made it clear they want to occupy Gaza. They want to keep fighting for years, and the hostages are not a priority to them. Well, I’ve urged the leadership of Israel to stand behind this deal despite whatever pressure comes.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir are among the Israeli politicians who have called for some form of a permanent Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip post-Oct. 7.

Biden also addressed the Israeli people and said he was speaking as someone who has had “a lifelong commitment to Israel.”

“I ask you to take a step back and think what will happen if this moment is lost,” 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.”

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“That will not bring hostages home,” he said. “That will not bring an enduring defeat of Hamas. That will not bring Israel lasting security.”

‘I need your help,’ says the president

Biden claimed that the deal could also lead to calm on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, and eventually, to a normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

After the speech, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office issued a statement confirming that Netanyahu approved the proposal. “The government of Israel is united in its desire to return the hostages as soon as possible and is working to achieve this goal,” the office stated.

“The prime minister authorized the negotiating team to present a proposal to that end, which would also enable Israel to continue the war until all its objectives are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities,” Netanyahu’s office added. “The actual proposal put forward by Israel, including the conditional transition from one phase to the next, allows Israel to uphold these principles.”

The war in Gaza has created a significant rift within the Democratic party and prompted substantial street protests against Biden and other administration officials.

Biden campaign re-election events are now routinely disrupted by anti-Israel protesters with chants like “Genocide Joe has got to go,” and Arab-American and left-wing anti-Israel voters could play a key role in swing states like Michigan in the November presidential election.

Biden concluded the speech with a call to end the war.

“I need your help,” Biden said. “Everyone who wants peace now must raise their voices. Let the leaders know they should take this deal. Work to make it real, make it lasting and forge a better future out of the tragic terror attack and war.”

“It’s time for this war to end,” he added. “For the day after to begin.”