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Netanyahu may be forced to choose between a ceasefire and the survival of his government.


For months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to offer a timetable for ending the war on Hamas in Gaza, a silence that critics have viewed as a political ploy. But this weekend, President Biden put himself in a difficult position when he announced that he would stop the war on Hamas in Gaza. Propose a ceasefire.

Netanyahu, a conservative who has long juggled personal, political and national interests, now appears to face a stark choice: Continue with his hardline, hawkish government or bring the Gaza hostages home while setting himself and Israel on a path away from growing international pressure. isolation.

Critics portray Netanyahu as an indecisive figure and say there are two Netanyahus: a pragmatic one who formed a small wartime cabinet with some centrist opponents to boost his government’s public legitimacy; and a one who is effectively held hostage by far-right members of the ruling coalition who oppose any concessions to Hamas and ensure Netanyahu’s political survival.

Biden on Friday outlined Israel’s broad conditions for U.S., Qatari and Egyptian mediators who have been pushing for a deal to suspend fighting and release hostages held in Gaza. Israeli officials confirmed the conditions were in line with a ceasefire proposal approved by the Israeli cabinet but not yet presented to the Israeli public.

Analysts say this is a critical moment for Netanyahu, whose formal name is Bibi.

Biden “brought Netanyahu out of his equivocation closet and presented Netanyahu’s proposal himself,” Ben Caspit, Netanyahu’s biographer and longtime critic, wrote in the Hebrew-language daily Maariv on Sunday. “He then asked a simple question: Does Bibi support Netanyahu’s proposal? Yes or no. No nonsense and empty words.”

The leaders of the two far-right parties in the ruling coalition — Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — have explicitly threatened to overthrow Netanyahu’s government if he accepts Biden’s deal before Hamas is completely destroyed. Some hard-line members of Netanyahu’s Likud party have said they will join them.

Meanwhile, two former military chiefs who joined the emergency government during the war, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, threatened to withdraw their support for the centrist National Unity Party by June 8 if Netanyahu fails to offer a clear path forward. Start organizing Trying to overthrow the government.

Ceasefire proposal Involving three stagesThey would see Israel release a group of hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; a temporary ceasefire would be transformed into a permanent one, and a third phase would involve internationally backed reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

More than 100 hostages were freed under a limited deal last November, and an estimated 125 hostages, both alive and dead, remain held by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza.

Ofir Falk, Netanyahu’s chief foreign policy adviser, told the British Sunday Times that Biden’s proposal was “a deal we agreed to.” Falk added that there are still many details to be worked out, “It’s not a good deal, but we very much want the hostages, all the hostages, to be released.”

Israelis were left to parse two statements from Netanyahu’s office, unusually issued on Shabbat after Biden’s speech. They neither strongly endorsed the proposal nor denied that it had been presented to the mediators. Instead, they were conditional and open to interpretation — seemingly designed to give Netanyahu a choice.

The first statement said Netanyahu had authorized the Israeli negotiating team to present a proposal that would release the hostages while “allowing Israel to continue the war until all of its goals are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’ military and ability to govern.”

The second report reiterated the conditions for ending the war, adding: “The idea that Israel would agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are met is unworkable.”

Tellingly, though, Netanyahu’s oft-cited goal of “total victory” over Hamas in Gaza was not achieved — a slogan Biden dismissed on Friday as a vague goal that would imply an open-ended war.

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