Joe Biden Outlines Ceasefire Deal For Israel-Gaza Conflict

U.S. President Joe Biden has released a three-stage peace proposal and urges Hamas to accept it amid the current Israel-Gaza conflict. The plan begins with a six-week ceasefire, entailing the withdrawal of Israeli troops from populated areas of Gaza, the exchange of Hamas hostages for Palestinian prisoners, a return of Palestinian civilians to Gaza, and 600 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter the enclave. Afterward, Stage Two then calls for a negotiation of terms between Israel and Hamas to permanently end hostilities. Following this, Biden’s proposal calls for a Third stage: permanent ceasefire and reconstruction of clinics, schools, and other buildings within the enclave that were damaged by Israeli forces.

The proposal has earned support from the families of Hamas captives, the international community, and some Israeli politicians. Many of Israel’s allies, such as the United Kingdom(UK) and Germany, have also endorsed the plan. Opposition to the peace plan mainly stems from within the cabinet of Israel. Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that any initiative not inclusive of an elimination of Hamas’s capacity to govern and wage war would be a “non-starter.” Furthermore, ultranationalist members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition have threatened to withdraw from the government if Biden’s proposal is accepted. Opposing forces to either accept or reject the deal are equally acting on Netanyahu, leading to uncertainty over whether the deal will be adopted or not.

Following the disclosure of Biden’s proposal, Netanyahu made a statement showing disagreement with its guiding principles: “Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.” Other Israeli politicians have expressed similar stances; Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir both said they would exit the government if Netanyahu were to endorse Biden’s proposal. On X, Smotrich wrote, “We demand the continuation of the war until Hamas is destroyed and all hostages return.” Smotrich also claims to oppose the return of displaced Gazans to the territory’s northern region. Similarly, Ben-Gvir stated, “If the prime minister implements the reckless deal under the conditions published today, which mean the end of the war and the giving up on the elimination of Hamas, Jewish Power [Ben-Gvir’s party] will dissolve the government.” On the other end of the spectrum, Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid believes that Netanyahu should accept the proposed deal, saying that the Israeli government “cannot ignore Biden’s important speech.” Lapid offered to lend Netanyahu the votes he would need to get the issue through the Israeli parliament; however, Lapid’s support would only allow Netanyahu to get the ceasefire proposal through, and would not be sufficient enough to help maintain Netanyahu’s position as the head of government– he would still require Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s support for that. Benny Gantz, member of the Israeli Knesset, also expressed his support for Biden’s proposal, even threatening to resign unless Netanyahu solidified a post-war plan for Gaza by June 8. Turning to Hamas’s position, Hamas views the proposal “positively,” as it includes a permanent ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. However, it is unclear whether the positive light it views the proposal in will lead to an official acceptance of it. 

An overarching theme exemplified by Biden’s proposal is that peace proposals can divide just as much as they unify. Israel’s government is bitterly split over the conflict, with Netanyahu and Israel’s right wing especially troubled by the second stage of Biden’s plan. If the proposal is accepted, the war against Hamas could end, the hostages could be returned, and the northern border with Lebanon could be calmed. However, embrace of the proposal by Netanyahu could also shock his governing coalition, potentially sending him into the opposition and making him more vulnerable to a conviction in his corruption trial. Additionally, full withdrawal of Israeli forces could allow Hamas to claim victory and reconstitute itself. However, in a recent announcement, Biden asserted that he found Hamas’s current presence in Gaza to be so downgraded that a repeat of the October 7 attacks would be impossible. Overall, it appears that Netanyahu is at a crossroads over what to do: if he rejects the deal, he risks deepening Israel’s international isolation and worsening ties with allies, such as the US, who are eager to wind down the war and have expressed exasperation over the civilian casualties resulting from the conflict. On the other hand, if Netanyahu accepts the deal, he will struggle to keep his coalition together; Tal Schneider, Israeli political commentator, noted, “Everything that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich demand or threaten to do, you see Netanyahu is very attentive to that.” To come to a decision, Netanyahu must decide what to pay greater heed to: political survival or the peace deal.

The thirty-seventh government of Israel was formed in late 2022. Before the war, Netanyahu’s coalition had a majority of 64 out of 120 seats– enough to govern, yet fragile enough that Netanyahu’s fate was closely tied to the actions of smaller parties within the government. Following the October 7 attack, Netanyahu, Gantz, and Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant formed an Israeli war cabinet to direct Israel’s offensive. The October 7 attack resulted in 1,189 deaths, mostly consisting of civilians. Hamas also took 252 hostages, 121 of which remain in Gaza. Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,000 individuals in Gaza. As of February 2024, the Israel-Gaza Conflict has exacerbated pre-existing humanitarian crises in Palestine, further worsening economic and development challenges in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. 1.7 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been internally displaced, and the Strip’s entire population of 2.3 million are suffering from shortages of food, water, and medicine.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire and requires an immediate solution and subsequent response. Negotiations to bring the war to a close have been stalling as individuals in Gaza face acute food insecurity, disrupted access to education, widespread internal displacement, high levels of poverty, and the destruction of homes and productive capacities, among other challenges. Contradiction has laced the words and actions displayed throughout this conflict, and in order to reach a solution that ensures peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, proposals, such as the one put forth by the U.S. and backed by Qatari and Egyptian mediators, must be considered outside the shadows of political ramification and inter-governmental opposition. Solutions that prioritize the safety of Hamas-held hostages and Palestinian civilians must be at the forefront of political decision-making.