US, Egypt, Qatar push permanent ceasefire in exchange for hostages, Netanyahu refuses

‘If we agree to this, then our warriors fell in vain. If we agree to this, we won’t be able to ensure the security of our citizens.’

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

The US, Egypt, and Qatar are encouraging Israel and Hamas to accept an agreement that would, in three phases, release all of the hostages held in Gaza in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and would require a withdrawal of Israeli forces in Gaza, the Wall Street Journal reports.

However,  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firmly rejected a plan that would force Israel to abandon its goal of defeating Hamas.

In a statement on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “If we agree to this, then our warriors fell in vain. If we agree to this, we won’t be able to ensure the security of our citizens.”

Israeli negotiators support a proposal that would be similar to the first temporary ceasefire in late November that led to the release of over 100 hostages in exchange for women and teenage Palestinian prisoners.

However, Hamas leaders want to use hostages as leverage for negotiations and are calling for a complete cessation of Israeli military operations and the release of hostages in exchange for up to a thousand Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

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Netanyahu is firm about requiring “total victory” and added, “I greatly appreciate U.S. support for Israel, and I said this to Biden. But I also stand firmly by our vital interest.”

The Egyptian negotiators have said that while the Israeli Prime Minister has made his position clear, others in the Israeli government are expressing the desire to put a higher priority on freeing hostages.

Gadi Eisenkot, former IDF general and non-voting member of the war cabinet said in a television interview, “We should say bravely that it is impossible to return the hostages alive in the near future without an agreement.”

However, a number of senior Israeli leaders have stated that only military pressure can lead to the release of the hostages.

The current 90-day plan’s first phase would involve a pause in fighting while Hamas would release all civilian hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners as well as a withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza, an end to surveillance, and double the aid going into Gaza.

The second phase would involve Hamas freeing female soldiers and bodies held in Gaza in exchange for more Palestinian prisoners.

In the third phase, Hamas would release soldiers and combat-age men and Israel would send some of its troops to guard the borders with Gaza.