Israel-Hamas war: US is making its biggest push yet to stop the war

WASHINGTON (AP) — In Middle East capitals, at the United Nations, from the White House and beyond, the Biden administration is making its most concentrated diplomatic push of the eight-month-old war in Gaza to persuade Israeli and Hamas leaders to take a proposed deal that would bring a cease-fire and release of more hostages.

But one week into the U.S. pressure campaign, the world still is waiting for signs that the cease-fire appeal begun May 31 by President Joe Biden was working, by moving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders toward a negotiating breakthrough.

For Israel and Hamas, the U.S. diplomatic press has become a public test of whether either side is ready to stop fighting — at least on any terms that fall short of their professed goals, whether it’s the complete crushing of the militant group or the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

For Biden, who describes the proposal as Israeli, it’s the latest high-profile test of U.S. leadership in trying to convince ally Israel as well as the militant group to relent in a conflict that is killing tens of thousands of people, inflaming regional tensions and absorbing much of the administration’s focus.

Here’s a look at the U.S.-led push for a Gaza cease-fire and where it stands:


It wasn’t that the cease-fire proposal Biden outlined in a televised address from the White House a week ago was startingly new. It was that Biden laid out the terms to the world and put the full weight of the U.S. presidency behind the appeal for both sides to take this deal.

The terms that Biden described for the first of three phases sounded much like the deal that U.S., Qatari and Egyptian mediators and Israel and Hamas have been haggling over for months.

There would be a six-week cease-fire in which Israeli forces pulled back from populated areas of Gaza. In exchange for Israel releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Hamas would release some women, older people and wounded among hostages it had seized in the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel that set off the war.

The proposal calls for a full release of remaining hostages and an Israeli withdrawal in later phases, although the terms are vague.

“Everyone who wants peace now must raise their voices and let the leaders know they should take this deal,” Biden said a week ago.

But by Friday, neither Israel nor Hamas had said yes. Netanyahu says the terms of the proposal aren’t as they have been described publicly and that Israel will never cease fighting until “the destruction” of Hamas’ military and leadership.

In effect, said Nimrod Novik, a former senior adviser to the late Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Biden “decided to ‘out’ Netanyahu and let the Israeli public know how serious the potential for bringing all hostages out.”

The U.S. aim: “So Israel would say ‘yes’ to its own proposal,” said Novik, now the Israel fellow at the Washington-based Israel Policy Forum.


The Biden administration isn’t letting up in its drive to get Hamas and Israel on board.

“The U.S. is going to do everything it can in some formulation to keep pushing this. Until there’s no place to go any more,” said Jonathan Panikoff, a former U.S. intelligence official. He’s now the director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East program.

At the U.N., U.S. diplomats are asking the Security Council to adopt a resolution demanding a permanent cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, over Israel’s objections. Biden is sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken back to the Middle East next week for his eighth visit since the war began, a lightning tour of Middle East capitals to promote the cease-fire proposal.

CIA director Bill Burns and Biden Middle East adviser Brett McGurk also have traveled to the region to garner support for the deal and show key players how it could work.

The Group of Seven leading global economies endorsed the proposal. So have countries with hostages held by militants in Gaza. Biden, Blinken and other U.S. officials are working the phones to rally support among Arab governments from Egypt and Qatar to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Many allies appear to welcome the president’s initiative to get the cease-fire talks back on course after weeks of drift, Panikoff said.


There’s little sign — yet — that the U.S. efforts have been enough to change the political equation in Israel. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners have vowed to bring down the government if the Israeli prime minister accepts the proposal that Biden outlined.

Trailing in opinion polls and facing an ongoing corruption trial, Netanyahu has little incentive to risk heading to another election. Although opposition leader Yair Lapid has offered to give Netanyahu backing for a hostage deal, the two men are bitter enemies and there is little reason to think any alliance would last.

Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Netanyahu’s war Cabinet, has called a news conference for Saturday, where he is expected to address his earlier threat to resign by this weekend if Netanyahu failed to release a plan for the war and Gaza.

Netanyahu will still control a parliamentary majority if Gantz leaves. But the departure of Gantz, a former military chief and defense minister who is respected in Washington, would weaken Netanyahu’s international credibility and leave him more dependent than ever on far-right coalition partners, who believe Israel should reoccupy Gaza and oppose the cease-fire proposal.

Popular protests could be one of the few scenarios that sway Netanyahu toward a deal, Novik said. Alternatively, Novik contended, just the threat of a public denunciation by Biden could prod Netanyahu toward compromise, given the United States’ importance as an ally.


Hamas is expected to deliver a formal response in coming days to the proposal that Biden is pushing, according to what the Qataris and Egyptians, who handle the direct communications with Hamas officials in the negotiations, told U.S. officials this week.

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told reporters this week in Beirut that Biden’s announcement was “positive” but said the group couldn’t accept any deal without Israel’s guarantee of a permanent cease-fire, a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a prisoner exchange and other conditions.

While the supreme leader of Hamas and other political figures are based abroad, Hamas also must relay any proposals to Yahya Sinwar — whose opinion is paramount — and other military leaders in Gaza. They inhabit tunnels up to 100 feet (30 meters) or more underground and are believed to have surrounded themselves with foreign hostages to discourage attack.


Josef Federman contributed from Jerusalem.

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