Biden says Israel has offered road map toward lasting cease-fire in Gaza

Biden says Israel has offered road map toward lasting cease-fire in Gaza

President Biden announced the terms of an Israeli-led proposal Friday that includes a three-part road map toward an end to fighting and the release of all remaining hostages taken Oct. 7, giving the strongest indication yet for a potential end to the war between Israel and Hamas.

“After intensive diplomacy carried out by my team, my many conversations with leaders of Israel, Qatar and Egypt, and other Middle Eastern countries, Israel has offered a comprehensive new proposal. It’s a road map to an enduring cease-fire and the release of all hostages,” Biden said.

The proposal has been transmitted to Hamas via Qatar, he said, but he indicated the U.S.-designated terrorist organization that runs the Gaza Strip had not yet formally accepted the plan.

“This is truly a decisive moment. Israel has made their proposal. Hamas says it wants a cease-fire — this deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it. Hamas needs to take the deal,” Biden said.

Biden also pleaded from the White House podium for Israelis to back the deal, arguing the military has devastated Hamas since the war began to the extent that Oct. 7 cannot be repeated.

“The people of Israel should know, they can make this offer without any further risk to their own security, because they’ve devastated Hamas … for the past eight months. At this point, Hamas no longer is capable of carrying out another Oct. 7, which is one of Israel’s main objective of this war, and quite frankly a righteous one,” the president said.

While adding he knows there are Israelis who may not agree with the negotiated deal, he warned against allowing for an indefinite war.

“I know there are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely. Some are even in the government coalition. They’ve made it clear they want to occupy Gaza, they want to keep fighting for years; the hostages are not a priority for them,” he said. “I urge Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes.”

When questioned if Biden meant that Israel has effectively won the war against Hamas, senior administration officials on a call with reporters after Biden spoke said Israel has had success in “degrading Hamas’s military capacity.” The official added that the offer wouldn’t have been possible three months ago.

Biden laid out the proposal in three phases. An initial phase would include a six-week cease-fire, then a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza, and the release of all remaining hostages taken from Israel on Oct. 7. It also includes parameters for internally displaced Palestinians to return to their homes, and reconstruction efforts of the devastated coastal enclave.

According to the arrangement, each of the three phases would be about 42 days long, a senior administration official outlined.

Phase one, during the six-week cease-fire, would include the beginning of rehabilitation, return of essential services, clearing rubble, and relief to the people of Gaza such as temporary shelters and housing.

Phase two would involve the release of all remaining hostages, including male soldiers, which would require another set of negotiations. It would include a cessation of hostilities permanently and withdrawal of all Israeli forces.

Phase three would involve an extensive three-to-five-year reconstruction program for Gaza backed by the U.S. and the international community, which is focused on rehabilitation and stabilization of the strip.

During the six-week break in fighting, Israel and Hamas would negotiate the necessary arrangements to get to phase two, but if those negotiations lasted longer than six weeks, the cease-fire would continue while plans were hashed out, Biden said.

“There are a number of details to negotiate to move from phase one to phase two. Israel will want to make sure its interests are protected, but the proposal says [if the] negotiations take longer than six weeks from phase one, the cease-fire will still continue as long as negotiations continue,” he said.

“As long as Hamas lives up to its commitment, a temporary cease-fire would become, in the words of the Israeli proposal, a cessation of hostilities permanently.”

The latest proposal comes less than a month after cease-fire talks that sparked optimism from the White House ended without an agreement between Hamas and Israel. The U.S., Egypt and Qatar had worked for weeks on that truce proposal, which would have secured the release of Israeli hostages and paused fighting in Gaza.

Friday’s announcement also comes as Israeli forces are operating in central Rafah, expanding a military operation despite warnings from the White House against widely targeting the densely populated area in Gaza.

The White House earlier this week said an Israeli strike that triggered a secondary explosion and killed Hamas leaders and dozens of civilians did not cross a “red line” that would have led to a shift in policy toward aid for Israel.

The president noted he has had a “lifelong” commitment to Israel and visited the country when the war began to reaffirm his support for the country.

“I ask you to take a step back, think what will happen if this moment is lost. We can’t lose this moment,” he said. “Indefinite war in pursuit of an identified notion of total victory will … only bog down Israel and Gaza.”

Biden has long supported the idea of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, and senior administration officials suggested Friday that the latest proposal could lead to that in the long term.

“We have to have a Gaza with Hamas no longer in power, with Hamas no longer able to threaten Israel,” he said. “When the president talks about the importance of the day after in his speech, all the elements of that are part of a day after.”

Brett Samuels contributed.

Updated at 3:28 p.m. ET

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