Israel-Gaza war: Biden unveils Israeli proposal to end conflict

US President Joe Biden has urged Hamas to accept a new Israeli proposal to end the conflict in Gaza, saying that “it’s time for this war to end”.

The three-part proposal would begin with a six-week ceasefire in which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would withdraw from populated areas of Gaza.

There would also be a “surge” of humanitarian aid, as well as an exchange of some hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

The deal would eventually lead to a permanent “cessation of hostilities” and a major reconstruction plan for Gaza.

Hamas said it views the proposal “positively”.

Speaking at the White House on Friday, Mr Biden said that the first phase of the proposed plan would include a “full and complete ceasefire”, the withdrawal of IDF forces from populated areas and the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

“This is truly a decisive moment,” he said. “Hamas says it wants a ceasefire. This deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it.”

The ceasefire, he added, would allow more humanitarian aid to reach the beleaguered territory, with “600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza every single day”.

The second phase would see all remaining living hostages returned, including male soldiers. The ceasefire would then become “the cessation of hostilities, permanently.”

Among those who have urged Hamas to agree to the proposal was UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who said on X that the group “must accept this deal so we can see a stop in the fighting”.

“We’ve long argued a stop in the fighting can be turned into a permanent peace if we are all prepared to take the right steps,” Lord Cameron added. “Let’s seize this moment and bring this conflict to an end.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also welcomed the development in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter. He said the world had “witnessed too much suffering [and] destruction in Gaza” and said it was “time to stop”.

“I welcome [President] Biden’s initiative [and] encourage all parties to seize this opportunity for a ceasefire, release of all hostages, guaranteed unhindered humanitarian access [and] ultimately a durable peace in the Middle East,” he added.

In his speech, Mr Biden acknowledged that negotiations between phases one and two would be difficult.

As recently as a few days ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was letting it be known that he was implacably opposed to agreeing to end the war as part of a ceasefire deal – making Mr Biden’s reference to the war’s end particularly significant.

While the plan includes many of the details from previous, ultimately failed rounds of talks, the US calls for a permanent ceasefire appear to be a significant concession designed to try and draw Hamas back to negotiations on terms they have already said they would agree to. A permanent ceasefire has been one of the group’s key demands.

The third phase of the proposal would see the final remains of any deceased Israeli hostages returned, as well as a “major reconstruction plan” with US and international assistance to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals.

In his remarks, Mr Biden acknowledged that some Israelis – including officials within Israel’s government – would likely be opposed to the proposal.

“I’ve urged the leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal,” he said. “Regardless of whatever [political] pressure comes.

The US president also directly addressed the Israeli people, telling them that “we can’t lose this moment”.

Notably, Mr Biden said that Hamas has now been degraded to the extent that it can no longer repeat an attack such as that which its fighters conducted on 7 October – a likely signal to the Israelis that Washington sees the war as done.

In a statement, Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted that the war would not end until its objectives were achieved, including the return of all hostages and the elimination of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities. He said the latest plan would allow Israel to uphold these principles.

Hamas, for its part, said that it views the proposal “positively” because of its call for a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, reconstruction and the exchange of prisoners.

The group said it was ready to “deal positively and constructively” to any proposal centred on a permanent ceasefire, provided that Israel “declares its explicit commitment to that”.

Another Palestinian official familiar with the negotiations who has seen the new Israeli proposal said that the document did not include a guarantee that the war will end, nor that IDF troops would withdraw from Gaza completely.

The proposal has been transmitted to Hamas through mediators based in Qatar.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called his counterparts in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to try to build a wider support for the proposal.

Mr Blinken “emphasized that Hamas should accept the deal and that every country with a relationship with Hamas should press it to do so without delay,” state department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Friday night.

Faced with mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, President Biden has faced growing domestic criticism over the level of US support for Israel, and calls to do more to encourage the warring sides to negotiate.

Earlier this week, however, the White House said that it does not believe that Israeli operations in Rafah amount to a “major ground operation” that could cross a red line and trigger a possible change in US policy.

The statement came after an Israeli air strike and resulting fire killed at least 45 Palestinians on Sunday.

In a separate announcement on Friday, US lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum formally invited Mr Netanyahu to address Congress in Washington.

It is unclear when the address would take place.

More than 36,000 have been killed across Gaza since the start of the conflict, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The war began in October when Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking 252 back to Gaza as hostages.

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