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U.S. pressures Hamas and Israel to permanently end the war in Gaza

A MARTÍNEZ: The U.S. is putting new pressure on Hamas and Israel to permanently end the war in Gaza.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah, President Biden surprised Israeli leaders last Friday when he went public with a cease-fire proposal that Israel had offered privately.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: 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.

INSKEEP: Biden's speech set off debate inside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, which raises the question as to whether Israel can deliver on its own cease-fire deal.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Tel Aviv. Daniel, what does this cease-fire proposal say?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, it's a proposal for a six-week initial cease-fire, which would include a major hostage-prisoner exchange, and it would allow Palestinians to return to North Gaza for the first time in the war. Then it would be followed with the next phase, a final release of hostages, including male Israeli soldiers. And Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza. And it would be a permanent end of hostilities. And then there would be a final phase after that, a big reconstruction effort for rebuilding Gaza's decimated infrastructure. This is a very similar proposal to what has been proposed for many months now, but that really never went anywhere. And so President Biden is making an effort for a breakthrough here, and he said, quote, "it's time for this war to end.".

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, are Hamas and Israel on board with this framework to end the war?

ESTRIN: Hamas says it is. It says it's ready to deal with the proposal positively and constructively. You know, President Biden is promising Hamas what it essentially has been asking for all along, which is a guaranteed and permanent end of the war. Our producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, has spoken to residents in Gaza who are eager to see President Biden push this deal through. The bigger question, A, is if Israel is ready to get on board. Biden has packaged this as a cease-fire that Israel is backing, when in reality, there is major disagreement about this in Israel. Public opinionwise, there's a new survey that found 40% of Israelis polled do support the cease-fire deal. If you look at the military, you see that Israel's army is actually focusing new attention elsewhere in addition to Gaza. It's focusing on the Lebanon border and training troops there because there's been an escalation of Hezbollah fire onto Israel.

The problem here with this deal is political. On the one hand, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this plan privately. That's what an Israeli official tells me. But Netanyahu cannot come out and say it outright, because the far-right flank in his government is threatening to resign over this proposal because they say it would keep Hamas intact. And if the far right does resign, Netanyahu simply won't have a government anymore, and that could spell the end of his political career.

MARTÍNEZ: So if Netanyahu is in this bind, how is it likely to play out?

ESTRIN: Well, Netanyahu, you know, does have an important choice to make. Ending the war could cost him his own political survival. At the moment, Israel's government - politicians are holding consultations. They're making their own calculations about whether to embrace this deal. And Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with Netanyahu. As two other war cabinet members to try to push it through, Biden is making the case here that accepting the deal will bring a reward for Israel, which is diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, something Israel has long sought. And Biden is saying that that can help Israel become less isolated globally over its actions in Gaza.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thanks.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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