Advertisement

Benjamin Netanyahu’s position more uncertain as Israeli PM rejects Hamas deal

A man holds a sign at a protest calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign for abandoning the nation outside the Knesset, the parliament, in Jerusalem on January 14. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
A man holds a sign at a protest calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign for abandoning the nation outside the Knesset, the parliament, in Jerusalem on January 14. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has rejected a cease-fire plan put forward by Hamas, calling the terms "delusional." Claiming that an Israeli victory in Gaza is "within reach," Netanyahu has vowed to fight on until Hamas is completely destroyed.

But the United States, which is involved in negotiation efforts along with Qatar and Egypt, has said that there could still be a path to a deal.

Hamas' plan came as a counter offer to a proposal put forward a week ago by Israel, the United States, Qatar and Egypt. That framework reportedly involved a six-week truce during which Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners would be exchanged. In response, Hamas proposed a sweeping three-stage plan aimed at ending the war completely.

Under the terms of the plan, phase one would see a pause in fighting to allow for the release of Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails. They would be exchanged for Israeli women and males under 19 being held in Gaza, as well as the elderly and the sick. At the same time, Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza's built-up areas as the reconstruction of hospitals and refugee camps begins.

During the second phase, Israeli forces would leave Gaza completely as the remaining Israeli hostages are exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. In phase three, Israel and Hamas would exchange bodies and remains. Throughout the process, the pause in fighting would allow for essential aid supplies to be delivered to Gaza.

A woman looks at photos of Israeli hostages near a demonstration calling for their release in Jerusalem on February 1, 2024. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
A woman looks at photos of Israeli hostages near a demonstration calling for their release in Jerusalem on February 1, 2024. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Hamas' plan also envisages ongoing negotiations to end the war completely, with a view to these concluding by the end of phase three.

Netanyahu's calculations

Right-wing Israelis wave the national flag during a protest outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, calling for the war against Hamas to continue until a decisive victory, on Thursday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Right-wing Israelis wave the national flag during a protest outside the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, calling for the war against Hamas to continue until a decisive victory, on Thursday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Both the content of the Hamas proposal and Netanyahu's rejection of it are revealing about the current political state of play for both parties. Netanyahu, long a highly divisive figure in Israel and abroad, has seen his approval ratings plummet in Israel since the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 240 taken hostage.

A poll last month found that only 15% of Israelis think he should keep his job after the war ends. Such figures suggest an alternative reason why he may be keen to continue the war for as long as possible.

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 18. File Pool Photo by Miriam Alster/UPI
U.S. President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 18. File Pool Photo by Miriam Alster/UPI

Netanyahu and his government have also been under increasing pressure from the hostages' families, who recently stormed a meeting of the Knesset to demand more action to release their loved ones. On Tuesday, five Israeli women who were released from Gaza during the November cease-fire called on Netanyahu to do whatever is necessary to secure the release of the remaining 136.

Similarly, Sharone Lifshitz, whose 85-year-old mother, Yocheved, was freed during the November cease-fire and whose 83-year-old father, Oded, is still being held, has criticized Netanyahu's rejection of the cease-fire proposal. In a press conference in the United Kingdom, Sharone Lifschitz said: "We need that deal to happen now ... I don't think Israel has another option."

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at a conference calling for the building of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 28. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at a conference calling for the building of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 28. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Yet Netanyahu is also facing pressure from hardliners within his own government. In particular, far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has been threatening to dissolve the coalition if Netanyahu makes any concessions to Hamas.

While Ben Gvir is not part of the Israeli war cabinet -- formed as an emergency response to the Oct. 7 attacks -- Netanyahu will be conscious of his potential to collapse the government.

Israelis and Palestinians holds placards and banners with messages calling for a cease-fire and end of the war in Gaza at a protest at the Almog Junction near Jericho in the West Bank on Friday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Israelis and Palestinians holds placards and banners with messages calling for a cease-fire and end of the war in Gaza at a protest at the Almog Junction near Jericho in the West Bank on Friday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Hamas' aims

As for Hamas, there are reports of a deepening rift between the Gaza cadre, led by Oct. 7 mastermind Yahya Sinwar, and the exiled leadership in Doha, headed by political bureau chair Ismail Haniyeh.

Israelis and Palestinians holds placards and banners with messages calling for a cease-fire and end of the war in Gaza at a protest at the Almog Junction near Jericho in the West Bank on Friday. Israeli security forces arrested protesters and confiscated placards, banners, drums and megaphones, shutting down the demonstration. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Sinwar, who has become increasingly powerful in Gaza in recent years, is said to back a temporary immediate truce while Haniyeh is pushing for a full ceasefire with major Israeli concessions.

All the while, the war in Gaza continues. With United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reporting a toll of more than 26,000 Palestinians killed, more than 65,000 injured, and 1.7 million displaced, the United Nations is now warning that famine is inevitable in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli and American flags hang near portraits of Israelis taken captive or killed by Hamas militants during the October 7 attacks, at the site of the Supernova Music Festival in Reim on January 20. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Israeli and American flags hang near portraits of Israelis taken captive or killed by Hamas militants during the October 7 attacks, at the site of the Supernova Music Festival in Reim on January 20. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

As negotiations continue to go back and forth, time is running out for the most vulnerable.

The Conversation
The Conversation

Anne Irfan is a lecturer in interdisciplinary race, gender and postcolonial studies at UCL.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.