Netanyahu: ‘Delusional claims’ from Hamas stopping cease-fire deal, ‘They’re on another planet’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that a cease-fire deal with Hamas is within reach, but only if Hamas gives up its “delusional claims” amidst tense negotiations.

Netanyahu told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” that Israel and Hamas are still far apart in negotiations for a six-week cease-fire deal that could see about 40 Israeli hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

“If Hamas comes down from its delusional claims, brings them down to earth, then we’ll have the progress that we all want,” Netanyahu said of negotiations.

“Hamas started out with crazy demands,” he continued. “It’s too soon to say they’ve abandoned them, but if they do abandon them, [we’ll] get into what you call the ballpark. They’re not even in the city. They’re on another planet. But if they come down to a reasonable situation, then yes, we’ll have the hostages returned home.”

Netanyahu refused to clarify which specific demands from Hamas went too far or discuss details of the negotiations, but he said that any deal “can’t compromise a total victory” over Hamas.

President Biden announced the framework of the latest round of negotiations earlier this month, after weeks of negotiations involving the leaders of Qatar and Jordan alongside Israel and Hamas.

“The key elements of the deal are on the table,” Biden said. “There’s gaps that remain, but I’ve encouraged Israeli leaders to keep working to achieve the deal. The United States will do everything possible to make it happen.”

A temporary cease-fire deal late last year resulted in the release of just under half of the approximately 200 people taken hostage by Hamas at the onset of the conflict. About 100 hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas, including about six Americans.

Biden has stepped up pressure on Netanyahu in recent weeks as the U.S. pushes Israel to slow its military offensive in southern Gaza and stop it from an expected ground invasion of Rafah, now home to about 1.4 million displaced Palestinians.

The Biden administration has repeatedly stated that Israel should not advance on Rafah without a specific military plan to reduce civilian casualties that has been reviewed by the U.S. government. Netanyahu said that he will review the Israeli military’s plan for invasion later Sunday.

The prime minister added that going into Rafah “has to be done,” claiming that after the invasion of Rafah starts, “victory [will be] within reach” in a matter of “weeks, not months.”

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