Image Source : AP (FILE) Israeli far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Jerusalem: Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Saturday threatened to bring down the coalition government if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters a ceasefire deal with Gaza that would entail ending the war without the elimination of Hamas. This came a day after US President Joe Biden announced a three-phase ceasefire deal proposed by Israel that includes the release of hostages and ending hostilities in the eight-month-long conflict.

“The deal, as its details were published today, means the end of the war and the abandonment of the dismantling of Hamas. This is a reckless deal, which constitutes a victory for terrorism and a security threat to the State of Israel. Agreeing to such a deal is not an absolute victory, but an absolute defeat. We will not allow the end of the war without the complete elimination of Hamas,” said Ben-Gvir on social media platform X.

“If the Prime Minister carries out the reckless deal under the conditions published today, which mean the end of the war and the abandonment of the dismantling of Hamas, Otzma Yehudit will dismantle the government,” he asserted. Meanwhile, Netanyahu on Saturday said there would be no permanent ceasefire in Gaza until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities were destroyed.

“Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: The destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel would continue to insist on these conditions before a permanent ceasefire is put in place.

Meanwhile, Israeli far-right Bezalel Smotrich also said that he will not be part of Netanyahu’s government if he goes ahead with the proposed deal and ends the war without destroying Hamas and bringing back the abductees. “We will not agree to the end of the war before the destruction of Hamas, nor to a serious damage to the achievements of the war so far through the withdrawal of the IDF and the return of Gazans to the north of the Gaza Strip, nor to the wholesale release of terrorists who will return, God forbid, to murder Jews,” he said.


What does the deal entail?

Mediators have urged Israel and Hamas to finalise the Gaza peace plan announced by Biden. Netanyahu’s office said on Friday that Israel had authorised negotiators to present a Gaza truce deal after Biden revealed the ceasefire plan. The new proposal Biden laid out is made up of three phases, and breaks from previous proposals because a ceasefire would continue as the parties move through all three. A senior US official said the Israel was able to make the new offer because of recent battleground gains.

As per the new proposal, the first phase would include a six-week ceasefire, where Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza population centers, and hostages, including the elderly and women, would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian civilians would return to Gaza, including northern Gaza, and 600 trucks would bring humanitarian aid into Gaza each day, Biden said.

In the second phase, Hamas and Israel would negotiate terms of a permanent end to hostilities. “The ceasefire will still continue as long as negotiations continue,” the president said, a new development. The third phase would include a major reconstruction plan for Gaza. Biden said the proposal has been relayed to Hamas by Qatar.

“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 and hostages are not a priority for them. Well, I’ve urged leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes,” Biden said.

How did Hamas react to the announcement?

Several Israeli media outlets described Biden’s speech on Friday as dramatic, and interpreted it as an attempt to appeal directly to the Israeli public. Leading Channel 12 interrupted its evening news show to carry Biden’s speech live. Israel’s censor had previously banned publication of the offer’s details, anchor Danny Kushmaro said. This proposal has a higher likelihood of success than previous ones, said Jeremi Suri, a history and public affairs professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Meanwhile, Hamas on Friday said it had a positive view of the contents of the three-phase ceasefire proposal announced by Biden. “Hamas confirms its readiness to deal positively and in a constructive manner with any proposal that is based on the permanent ceasefire and the full withdrawal [of Israeli forces] from the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction [of Gaza], and the return of the displaced to their places, along with the fulfilment of a genuine prisoner swap deal if the occupation clearly announces commitment to such deal,” the group said in a statement.

Hamas’ position signals a change in attitude from the group, which in recent months had accused the US of siding with Israel and obstructing attempts for a ceasefire. “Hamas sees Biden’s position now more focused on pressuring Israel to return to negotiations with a different attitude, or they (Israel) could risk clashing with the Americans,” a Palestinian official close to the mediation efforts told Reuters.

Palestinian health authorities estimate more than 36,280 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel attacked the enclave in response to an Oct. 7 Hamas assault in southern Israel. The Hamas attack killed around 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.

(with inputs from agencies)

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