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Biden: ‘Every Reason’ to Believe Netanyahu Dragging Out Gaza War to Save Himself Politically

ILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem
ILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem

U.S. President Joe Biden, increasingly critical of Israel’s conduct of its war against Hamas militants in Gaza as the death toll of Palestinians mounts, says in a new interview that there is “every reason” to believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dragged out the conflict to save himself politically.

As the war nears the eight-month mark, the Israeli leader faces conflicting demands from Biden and other world leaders to end the conflict, while right-wing lawmakers in the Israeli parliament say they will abandon support for Netanyahu and upend his government if he agrees to a cease-fire without erasing the last vestiges of Hamas control in Gaza.

Biden last week announced an Israeli proposal for a Gaza cease-fire and pushed for world support of it. But Hamas has yet to agree to it, and Netanyahu has since been reserved in his comments about it. Days before, Time magazine asked Biden in an interview whether he believed Netanyahu was dragging out the war for political self-preservation.

"There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion," Biden replied in the interview, which was published Tuesday.

Biden acknowledged that he and Netanyahu have had tense relations as the death toll in Gaza has soared past the 36,000 mark, a figure that includes civilians and combatants. They are particularly at odds over whether a revitalized Palestinian Authority should govern Gaza after the war, which the United States favors and Netanyahu rejects without offering a detailed plan of his own.

"My major disagreement with Netanyahu is, what happens after ... Gaza's over? What, what does it go back to? Do Israeli forces go back in?" Biden asked rhetorically.

"The answer is, if that's the case, it can't work,” he said.

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The fate of a proposal to halt fighting in Gaza for six weeks and increase humanitarian aid while Hamas releases some hostages it is holding in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel remained uncertain Tuesday. Hamas has yet to respond to the proposal, Israeli officials are questioning some of the details and the United States is seeking U.N. Security Council support for the deal’s acceptance and implementation.

A draft U.S. resolution seen by VOA calls on Hamas to fully accept and implement the cease-fire proposal “without delay and without condition.”

The draft says, “Swift implementation of this deal would enable a cease-fire, withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza, the release of hostages, a surge in humanitarian assistance, restoration of basic services, and the return of Palestinian civilians to northern Gaza.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Monday that Hamas, which received the cease-fire proposal Thursday, had yet to respond. He said the key elements of the proposal “are nearly identical to the major elements of the proposal that Hamas submitted several weeks ago.”

The basic outline of the deal includes a six-week halt in fighting, the release of some hostages from Gaza, daily deliveries of 600 trucks of aid for Palestinians and further negotiations aimed at securing a permanent end to the conflict.

U.S. officials reiterated Monday that the cease-fire proposal, although presented publicly by Biden last week, is an Israeli proposal.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that making public negotiations that officials have declined to reveal in the past for fear of disrupting the negotiation process was not about putting pressure on Israeli officials, but rather, if anything, publicly pressuring Hamas and its leaders to accept the deal.

“The president felt that where we are in this war, where we are in the negotiations to get the hostages out, that it was time for a different approach and a time to make the proposal public, to try to energize the process here, catalyze a different outcome,” Kirby said.

Smoke plumes billow near tents sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on June 4, 2024.

Kirby said in earlier comments to reporters that if Hamas were to accept the proposal, Israel would as well.

Netanyahu told a parliamentary committee Monday that “claims that we have agreed to a cease-fire without our conditions being met are incorrect,” according to a statement from his office.

Israel said, "The war will be stopped for the purpose of returning the hostages" after which discussions would follow on how to achieve Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas.

Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations issued a joint statement Monday fully endorsing the cease-fire proposal.

“We call on Hamas to accept this deal, that Israel is ready to move forward with, and we urge countries with influence over Hamas to help ensure that it does so,” the statement said.

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates said after a virtual meeting Monday that they support efforts to negotiate a permanent cease-fire, while emphasizing “dealing seriously and positively” with the proposal outlined by Biden.

The ministers called for Israel’s full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the return of displaced Palestinians to areas they fled, the launch of reconstruction efforts in Gaza, and the implementation of a two-state solution, according to a statement released by Jordan’s foreign ministry.

Hamas launched a terror attack October 7 on Israel, killing about 1,200 people according to Israeli tallies, and taking roughly 250 hostages. About 120 of the hostages remain in Gaza, although the Israeli military says 37 of them are dead.

Israel's retaliatory bombardments and ground offensive have killed at least 36,400 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.