One more chance: On Israel and the Biden three-phase ceasefire plan

Israel will have to accept the ceasefire proposal or face isolation

President Joe Biden’s three-phase ceasefire plan for Gaza got a major boost on Monday with the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution asking Israel and Hamas to accept the proposal. The U.S. says Israel has already agreed to the deal laid out in the resolution, adding that Hamas’s tough position was the main hindrance to a ceasefire. This is the second time since the war began on October 7, 2023 that the UNSC is calling for a Gaza ceasefire. In March, the Council’s call was ignored by Israel. If the U.S. had abstained from voting then, letting the resolution pass, this time, Washington is the force behind the proposal. According to the Biden plan, which the U.S. President says was laid out by Israel, there would be a six-week long ceasefire in the first phase. Israeli troops would pull back from densely populated areas, allow more aid trucks into Gaza, and release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 33 hostages held by Hamas. In the second phase, Hamas is to release the remaining hostages while Israel is expected to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The third phase would see the enclave’s reconstruction.

While the Biden administration, which backs Israel’s war on Gaza, is actively pushing for this plan, there are serious hindrances on both sides. The U.S. has repeatedly said that the proposal has the blessings of Israel, but the Benjamin Netanyahu government has not publicly endorsed the plan. Mr. Netanyahu was politically weakened last week when opposition politician Benny Gantz quit the unity government, leaving Prime Minister Netanyahu more dependent on his far-right allies. And the far-right parties in the ruling coalition have threatened to break the government if he accepted the ceasefire proposal. So the question is whether Mr. Netanyahu could place the country’s interests above his political survival. On the other side, Hamas demands an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt, total freedom in choosing the Palestinian prisoners to be released and guarantees from China, Russia and Türkiye for a final agreement with Israel. As both sides harden their stances, truce remains elusive. Since the war began, at least 37,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel and 2.3 million people displaced. Israel has repeatedly ignored pleas to protect civilian lives, while Hamas has shown little interest in making concessions to clinch a ceasefire deal. Israel wants the hostages to be freed. Hamas wants the war to be over and Israeli troops to be out of Gaza. They should realise that the only way to meet these objectives is to strike a negotiated deal, rather than prolonging the war that has destroyed much of Gaza and turned Israel into an internationally isolated rogue state.