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Netanyahu: We will destroy Hamas, Biden’s version of hostage deal ‘incomplete’

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PM says claims Israel will stop fighting before Hamas is toppled and hostages are freed are ‘incorrect’; official says proposal didn’t originate with Israel


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) speaks at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, June 3, 2024 (Maayan Toaf/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) speaks at the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee, June 3, 2024 (Maayan Toaf/GPO)

Israeli officials pushed back on Monday on elements of the hostage deal proposal presented by US President Joe Biden over the weekend as an Israeli offer, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that there were gaps between that proposal and Israel’s stance.

“The claim that we agreed to a ceasefire without our conditions being met is incorrect,” the prime minister reportedly told lawmakers.

Netanyahu said in a Knesset meeting that Israel will not end the war in Gaza until it achieves its three war aims, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel: destroying Hamas’s military and civil governance capabilities, securing the release of all hostages, and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.

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“The proposal that Biden presented is incomplete,” the premier told MKs at a closed-door meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, according to media reports.

He also reportedly said that there are “gaps” between the Israeli version and Biden’s recounting of it.

“The war will stop in order to bring hostages back, and afterward we will hold discussions. There are other details that the US president did not present to the public,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

According to Channel 12, Netanyahu said that Israel can stop the war for six weeks, but not end it permanently. “Iran and all of our enemies are watching to see if we capitulate,” he said.

Biden announced in a speech late Friday what he described as an Israeli proposal for a deal, triggering shockwaves in the government, whose far-right parties threatened to bring down the coalition if Netanyahu tried to see it approved.

US President Joe Biden announces a proposed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza at the White House’s State Dining Room in Washington, DC, May 31, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

In his address, Biden revealed that the new Israeli proposal for a ceasefire and hostage deal had been submitted on Thursday to Hamas via Qatar. The US president laid out some of the proposal’s key elements in some detail and urged Hamas to accept it and the Israeli government to “stand behind it.”

Biden indicated that the second phase of the deal would see a permanent end to the war and that Hamas would not be in power, but did not detail how that would come about.

Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official on Monday called into question Biden’s characterization of the proposal, stressing to NBC News that Israel never agreed to fully withdraw its forces from Gaza as part of any agreement.

Biden’s description was “not accurate,” said the unnamed official.

IDF troops operate in southern Gaza’s Rafah , in a handout photo
published May 31, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The official said that what Biden described wasn’t an Israeli proposal but rather one originating with the mediating countries, to which Israel made amendments.

“It’s strange that they say it’s an Israeli proposal and at the same time that Israel needs to agree to it,” mused the official.

In a video statement after Monday’s Knesset meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel had gone “a long way” in order to try to get the hostages back, but asserted that all the while “we maintained the aims of the war, primarily the elimination of Hamas.

“We insist that we achieve both [aims],” he said. “It is not something I am adding now, it is not something I am adding because I was pressured by the coalition. It is something we unanimously agreed upon in the war cabinet.”

The comments came a day after a senior adviser to Netanyahu confirmed that while there is still work to be done on the hostage release deal, Israel has agreed to the framework.

Hamas, for its part, welcomed the proposal put forth by Biden, Egypt’s foreign minister said in Spain on Monday.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks during a press conference after
a meeting with his Greek counterpart in Athens on May 20, 2024. (Photo by Aris MESSINIS / AFP)

“Hamas’s initial statements indicate that it received the proposal positively,” said Sameh Shoukry at a press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister  Jose Manuel Albares.

Shoukry seemed to be referring to a Hamas response to Biden’s speech in which it said it views the address positively and would negotiate in good faith to secure a permanent ceasefire and the permanent withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Still, The Wall Street Journal on Monday cited Hamas officials as saying they were seeking a “detailed proposal in writing” outlining Biden’s proposed deal, amid concerns that Israel would not commit to a long-term ceasefire.

Citing messages purportedly sent by Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar to Arab mediators, the news outlet reported that Sinwar — unlike Hamas leaders abroad — is not seeking an end to the war anytime soon, since he believes the longer fighting drags on, the more Israel is being turned into “an international pariah” while support for Palestinians grows.

On Sunday night, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz to discuss the latest proposal.

In his call with Gallant, Blinken “commended Israel’s readiness to conclude a deal and affirmed that the onus is on Hamas to accept,” the State Department said in a readout of the conversation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Moldova’s President Maia Sandu at the Moldovan Presidency in Chisinau, Moldova, May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, Pool)

The top US diplomat also told Gantz that in addition to bringing about the release of the hostages, implementing the deal “would advance Israel’s long-term security interests, including by unlocking the possibility of calm along Israel’s border with Lebanon that would allow Israelis to return to their homes.”

In a statement released by his office on Monday morning, Gallant confirmed that he had “emphasized Israel’s commitment to dismantling Hamas as a governing and military authority.”

The deal, Biden said on Friday, would “bring all the hostages home, ensure Israel’s security, create a better day after in Gaza without Hamas in power, and set the stage for a political settlement that provides a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Protesters attend a rally calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza since October 7, outside the Defense Ministry Headquarters in Tel Aviv, June 1, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israeli leaders asserted after Biden’s address that the war would continue until Hamas has been destroyed, and large sections of the Israeli government have criticized Biden for failing to provide clarity as to how that would be achieved.

Although the US president stressed that the deal would remove the terror group from power, and said that it was “no longer capable of carrying out another October 7,” the publicized parts of the offer did not specify how Hamas would be replaced as Gaza’s ruler.

The issue was discussed by the war cabinet when it convened on Sunday night.

According to Hebrew media reports, Gallant presented the cabinet with a plan for “humanitarian bubbles” to be formed inside the Palestinian enclave, in which Palestinians proven to have no affiliation to Hamas or other terror groups will be responsible for overseeing the distribution of humanitarian aid inside specific neighborhoods.

Jacob Magid and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.