With new hostage deal possible, US wary of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich's influence

With 120 hostages still in Hamas captivity, President Biden is hoping to finalize a new deal that will end the war and bring back all the hostages, but is circumspect about Netanyahu's coalition ruining any chance of an agreement with Hamas and wishes to keep Ben-Gvir and Smotrich out of war cabinet

For the umpteenth time since the war began, Israel is anxiously awaiting Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar's response to a proposal for a hostage deal and ceasefire. Senior members of Hamas abroad have shown positive signs after the UN Security Council approved the American resolution urging Hamas to accept Israel's framework. However, Hamas continues to demand guarantees for ending the war, leaving the final decision in Sinwar's hands, who has yet to respond.
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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the 80th anniversary of D-Day
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the 80th anniversary of D-Day
Biden, eager to get a deal going
(Photo: Benoit Tessier /Reuters)
Hamas indicated yesterday that they welcome the move and are "ready to cooperate with mediators on implementing ceasefire principles" after the American proposal passed with 14 supporters and no opponents in the Security Council, though Russia abstained. However, no official response from Hamas has been provided, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken clarified during his visit to Israel today that the final word rests with Sinwar, whom he described as being "buried ten floors underground."
Blinken emphasized the U.S. commitment to eliminating Hamas: "President Biden is committed to Israel's security and defense. He is the first American president to visit Israel during a war, the first to deploy American forces to help defend Israel when attacked by Iran in April—and we are committed to defeating Hamas to ensure it cannot control Gaza again. Military measures are necessary but not sufficient; there needs to be a clear political and humanitarian plan to ensure Hamas cannot consolidate control in Gaza, and that Israel can move towards lasting security."
Blinken stressed Hamas is the current obstacle to a deal, while Israel remains committed to the proposed framework. "I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night, and he confirmed his commitment to the proposal. I also spoke with Defense Minister Gallant and other senior Israeli officials. There is a strong consensus to advance the proposal, but it depends on one person at this stage. We will see what comes from them, and from him," he added, referring to Sinwar.

Biden apprehensive of Hawkish coalition members torpedoing deal

Despite continuous emphasis from Blinken and President Biden that Hamas must agree to the deal, there are concerns that Netanyahu might ultimately reject it—amid threats from ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich to dissolve the government.
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בצלאל סמוטריץ' ו שר ביטחון לאומי איתמר בן גביר
בצלאל סמוטריץ' ו שר ביטחון לאומי איתמר בן גביר
Will they remain out of war cabinet?
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
During his brief visit to Israel, Blinken met privately with Foreign Minister Israel Katz, immediately after his meeting with Netanyahu. A diplomatic source indicated the meeting was coordinated following Benny Gantz's resignation from the government. The Americans see Katz as a key figure after Gantz's resignation.
The source added that Washington conveyed a message urging Netanyahu not to dissolve the war cabinet after Gantz and Eizenkot's resignation, and to include Katz, who is viewed as a responsible figure. The Americans are very concerned Netanyahu might include hawkish ministers like Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in the war cabinet, concerns raised by Blinken in his meeting with Netanyahu.
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