Israel Accepts Biden’s Plan without Accepting It

Reuters (“Biden’s Gaza plan ‘not a good deal’ but Israel accepts it, Netanyahu aide says“):

An aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Sunday that Israel had accepted a framework deal for winding down the Gaza war now being advanced by U.S. President Joe Biden, though he described it as flawed and in need of much more work.

In an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times, Ophir Falk, chief foreign policy advisor to Netanyahu, said Biden’s proposal was “a deal we agreed to — it’s not a good deal but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them”.

“There are a lot of details to be worked out,” he said, adding that Israeli conditions, including “the release of the hostages and the destruction of Hamas as a genocidal terrorist organisation” have not changed.

[…]

Biden has hailed several ceasefire proposals over the past several months, each with similar frameworks to the one he outlined on Friday, all of which collapsed. In February he said Israel had agreed to halt fighting by Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that began on March 10. No such truce materialised.
The primary sticking point has been Israel’s insistence that it would discuss only temporary pauses to fighting until Hamas is destroyed. Hamas, which shows no sign of stepping aside, says it will free hostages only under a path to a permanent end to the war.

[…]

Falk reiterated Netanyahu’s position that “there will not be a permanent ceasefire until all our objectives are met”.

Netanyahu is under pressure to keep his coalition government intact. Two far-right partners have threatened to bolt in protest at any deal they deem to spare Hamas. A centrist partner, ex-general Benny Gantz, wants the deal considered.

Hamas has provisionally welcomed the Biden initiative.

“Biden’s speech included positive ideas, but we want this to materialise within the framework of a comprehensive agreement that meets our demands,” senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

Hamas wants a guaranteed end to the Gaza offensive, withdrawal of all invading forces, free movement for Palestinians and reconstruction aid.

Israeli officials have rejected that as an effective return to the situation in place before Oct. 7, when Hamas, committed to Israel’s destruction, ruled Gaza.

Times of Israel (“Senior Netanyahu adviser: Israel okayed Biden-touted hostage deal, but work needed“)

A senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed that while there is still work that needs to be done on a hostage release deal presented by US President Joe Biden, Israel has agreed to the framework.

[…]

According to the report, Falk stressed that Israel was not rejecting the deal, which he characterized as “a deal we agreed to — it’s not a good deal but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them.”

But, echoing an earlier statement by Netanyahu, Falk added that Israel’s conditions to end the war in Gaza, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre, “have not changed — the release of the hostages and the destruction of Hamas as a genocidal terrorist organization.”

He was also quoted as saying Biden’s address was “a political speech for whatever reasons.”

[…]

On Sunday President Isaac Herzog said he would back Netanyahu to move ahead with the plan.

Speaking at a conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Herzog said he had told Netanyahu that he would give him “full support” for a hostage-release deal.

Herzog also thanked Biden for his speech and for “his ongoing efforts to bring about the release of all the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.”

“We must not forget that according to Jewish tradition, there is no greater commandment than redeeming captives and hostages — especially when it comes to Israeli citizens who the State of Israel was not able to defend,” Herzog said at the conference, named for his father, Chaim Herzog. “It is our inherent obligation to bring them home within the framework of a deal that preserves the security interests of the State of Israel.”

Herzog’s role is largely ceremonial and he would not have a say in approving a hostage deal, but as a state figurehead, his opinion carries sway among the public.

[…]

While [Biden] described the latest proposal as one crafted by Israel, and thus presumably approved by the narrow war cabinet, he evidently recognized that this was not the final say from Jerusalem and urged Netanyahu’s full government to stand behind the offer its negotiators had submitted via the mediators to Hamas.

The premier’s ultranationalist coalition partners quickly declared that anything other than the “destruction of Hamas” would not be acceptable to them. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism party, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who heads the Otzma Yehudit party, both issued statements Saturday night saying they would bolt the government if that demand is not met.

The two parties won 14 seats when they ran jointly in the 2022 elections and are crucial to the governing majority of Netanyahu’s core, 64-strong coalition, in the Knesset’s 120-seat Knesset.

Neither Smotrich nor Ben Gvir are members of the three-member war cabinet that oversees the war and acts as the point on hostage negotiations. Its members are Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Minister Benny Gantz.

The Sunday Times report cited by Reuters is, alas, paywalled.

Leaving aside whether continuing the war personally benefits Netanyahu, the politics of this are fraught. He likely can’t agree to the deal as stands while keeping the coalition together.

This is clearly a different stance than was being taken in the immediate aftermath of Biden’s speech. So, either Biden has effectively communicated that further support from his administration is contingent on taking this deal or the speech was itself a way for Netanyahu to float a way out of this mess without doing so directly.

That said, I remain where I was on this yesterday: I don’t see how this deal accomplishes any Israeli objective other than the return of the remaining living hostages and the bodies of those who have died in captivity. Any termination of the conflict that leaves the Hamas leadership intact is a victory for Hamas.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Any termination of the conflict that leaves the Hamas leadership intact is a victory for Hamas.

    True. But Israel has other fish to fry. Keeping reservists on-duty will hurt the economy. No cease-fire will stop Israel from raiding if they see a worthwhile target, and as soon as Hamas starts firing missiles – which they will – Israel will have justification for targeted attacks. This was always going to end with no solution and more can-kicking.

    Also, interesting that the Saudis and Emiratis appear to be on-board with this proposal. Netanyahu can piss off the Americans with relative impunity, but pissing off the Arabs while pissing off the Americans simultaneously, is a weak position.

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  2. Lounsbury says:

    Any termination of the conflict that leaves the Hamas leadership intact is a victory for Hamas.

    That is synonymous with there is no winning solution for Israel (ex actual genocidal ethnic cleansing of Ghaza).

    It is a false choice. If you meant rather any termination that leaves Hamas in effective control of Ghaza, then it becomes correct, that is not the same thing however.

    That of course lies at the heart of the critique (which comes from Israeli and outside sources) of the Netanyahu approach of offering no solution other than bombardments as only some political path that is not more of the same that led to this, the ongoing creeping annexation in WB, the de facto favouring of Hamas over PA in a short-termist divide-and-rule logic.

    Of course if one writes as you have previously that any such solution is a win for Hamas and loss for the Israelis, it is really the failed logic as like end WWI resolution – or the failed initial logic of the American action in Iraq in contrast with the more adaptive later political compromise with the Sunni fraction of the population that enabled real progress against the DAESH / al Qaeda insurgencies.

    In the end it is the Netanyahu fraction that is hoist on its own petard, as their failed logic has undercut Israeli greater national interest and played directly into the calculation of Hamas – avoidably so. Baited into an error structurally similar to their Lebanon errors.

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  3. Kevin says:

    Any termination of the conflict that leaves the Hamas leadership intact is a victory for Hamas.

    That’s because Israel’s response to 10/7 was a victory for Hamas. Hamas got what they wanted, an escalation and continuation of the conflict. For Hamas, the conflict is the goal.

    “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

    If Israel wants some level of peace, they have to either somehow remove the Palestinian population, or they have to figure out how to live with the Palestinian population, in such a way that both sides can accept. There’s no third way, where Israel gets everything it wants and keeps a population of equivalent size contained in a smaller and smaller area.

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  4. JKB says:

    Any termination of the conflict that leaves the Hamas leadership intact is a victory for Hamas.

    That is the goal of many in the Biden administration. Their goal is to save Hamas. It is the Biden campaign’s Michigan/Minnesota two-state strategy.

    Here is a recent list of Biden officials who have resigned over Biden’s public nominal support for Israel

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    It is a fact that Netanyahu has effectively abrogated American brokered deals in the past, telling nominally private audiences that he has no intent to honor the terms. And of course, the word of anyone in Hamas means even less.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    @Kevin:

    There’s no third way, where Israel gets everything it wants and keeps a population of equivalent size contained in a smaller and smaller area.

    Its worked so far in the West Bank. Just ask the settlers

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  7. just nutha says:

    @JKB: Only half a dozen or so among scores of relatively high rank administration professionals? Not impressive. Be best.

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  8. Lounsbury says:

    @Kevin: Yes exactly. Hamas baited Netanyahu into a trap, and Netanyahu jumped in.

    @JKB: even as the trolling one knows it was, that’s a loathsome post in dishonesty, although adequate reflexion of its originator.

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  9. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Israel will have justification for targeted attacks.

    Israel has always had justification for targeted attacks.

    This was always going to end with no solution and more can-kicking.

    And you cheered it on. massive death and destruction to accomplish nothing.

    That said, I think the Israeli government was hoping to create a massive refugee crisis and get that border with Egypt to fall. It’s the only thing that makes any sense, and it is keeping with what various ministers that people feel compelled to discount as cranks were saying.

    Otherwise the entire thing is completely baffling — Israel had no post-war plan that they were working towards. The Oct 7th attack (or something like it) was bound to happen eventually, and everyone knew that. Israel was handed the opportunity to move swiftly and execute some kind of plan to change the status quo… and they had nothing? Just “mowing the grass” shorter?

    There wasn’t even an Israeli equivalent to PNAC with Cheney and the like pushing for an Iraq invasion where we would be greeted as liberators, and reshaping the Middle East just waiting for an excuse to roll it out? No pie-in-the-sky idiot plan? Just nothing?

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  10. Matt says:

    @Gustopher: I dunno man Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal problems suddenly disappeared as soon as the bombs started dropping…

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  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    And you cheered it on

    Don’t be an idiot. Analysis is not cheerleading. Unlike you, I did not discover the Middle East on October 7, so unlike you I had a better picture of where things were going. Now you’re angry because I was right.

    I cheated because long experience had taught me that optimism and the Middle East don’t belong together. And the cynical interpretation is almost always right, and often the challenge is being cynical enough. So, ‘there is no solution,’ was not a stretch. There was literally no reason to suppose things would work out well. And everyone here who has paid attention to the ME for more than the last seven months, knew it.

    You think it’s your unique insight that all this death and destruction would in the end accomplish nothing good? Everyone knew. Everyone who has paid attention for more than a few months, knew.

    You know what else meant nothing in the end? Your self-congratulatory virtue posturing. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. And if you think I’m happy about any of this, then you really are an idiot. A true cynic is an idealist who’s been disappointed again and again.

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  12. SKI says:

    @Gustopher:

    That said, I think the Israeli government was hoping to create a massive refugee crisis and get that border with Egypt to fall. It’s the only thing that makes any sense.

    This is completely insane and mind-bogglingly wrong. It ignores reality and context. Israel didn’t want this.

    The Israeli government reacted because Hamas attacked on October 7th, murdering, raping and making hostages. They literally didn’t have a choice not to respond. No government could fail to respond to that attack.

    They didn’t go in with a post-war plan because there was no plan for the war to begin with.

    There hasn’t been an agreed upon post-war plan developed because there aren’t any good options and the internal politics of Bibi’s unpopular minority government don’t allow him to say what everyone knows – that Gaza will have to be governed by non-Hamas Palestinians, which means the PA.

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