Biden's ceasefire deal must be accepted

International pressure is building on Israel and Hamas to accept the US proposal to end the Israel-Gaza war

A Palestinian mother from the Barbakh family mourns the death of her son in an Israeli air strike. EPA
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Palestinians have endured some of the worst military raids since the Israeli government began its war in Gaza in response to the Hamas attack on October 7. Now, a ceasefire deal in three phases proposed by the US President Joe Biden on Friday provides the strongest glimmer of hope in months to finally end the war. Starting with a six-week truce, the proposal entails the exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners of war, in addition to a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza's populated areas. The deal, it is hoped, would eventually lead negotiations for a two-state solution.

Even as the finer details of the plan are being worked out, political will from Washington and the wider international community to secure a ceasefire is a source of cautious optimism. There is considerable pressure on Israel and Hamas as most western nations want an immediate ceasefire – as do key Arab powers, which have strongly supported previous attempts to secure a ceasefire.

On Saturday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the new deal should be taken seriously, writing on social media on Sunday that Mr Biden's proposals are “constructive, realistic, and applicable, and both sides must seize them. They are an opportunity to stop the war, prevent further loss of life, stop the escalation, release prisoners of war and hostages, and alleviate the catastrophic and dangerous situation that civilians are experiencing in Gaza”.

“There is no comprehensive solution,” Sheikh Abdullah added, “except through peace and negotiations in accordance with the two-state solution.”

Sheikh Abdullah spoke to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after Mr Biden’s announcement, to discuss the return of civilians to North Gaza and the beginning of reconstruction of a territory 80 per cent of which has been destroyed and will take years to rebuild. Mr Blinken also thanked Sheikh Abdullah for the UAE’s humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, as the Emirates has been a leading source of support to Gaza since November.

The international pressure building on Israel to accept the ceasefire deal, particularly in the West, must be sustained.

Along with the regional push – in a joint statement, Egypt and Qatar urged Hamas and Israel to agree to end the war – the international community needs to continue to push Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to end its hostilities. The demand must be kept up despite the more extremist members of Mr Netanyahu's coalition threatening to quit the government if the deal went ahead.

This won't be easy, as the Israeli cabinet's internal disagreements are not only an obstacle to any ceasefire plan being accepted but also to its long-term survival. To which end, Mr Biden has said the first phase of the truce will continue even if talks take more than six weeks – a necessary caveat that will save countless lives.

The conditions for a sustained peace require there to be no room for Israel's vacillations and doublespeak. The proposal to end the conflict is being touted as an Israeli one, yet its government insists on sticking to its goal of destroying Hamas.

Ultimately, it requires the US, Israel's most important ally, to exert pressure it seldom uses on the Netanyahu government for the war to end. It is for this reason that Mr Biden's announcement – after appearing reticent for months – is promising, even if self-serving in the run-up to the US presidential election.

Large sections of American voters, disenchanted by the prolonged war, could well respond to the President's persistent unwillingness to rein in Israel at the ballot. A peace deal that evolves into a permanent ceasefire, and eventually a two-state solution, is then in Mr Biden's political interests.

Hamas’s supporters and interlocutors must also ensure it maintains its promise to uphold conditions of a ceasefire deal.

Given the sheer loss of life, a cessation of hostilities has to be, above all else, about finally putting an end to Palestinian suffering, and for hope to take root once again in Gaza.

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Published: June 03, 2024, 3:00 AM
Updated: June 04, 2024, 12:23 PM