Middle EastAnalysis

US ceasefire plan welcomed by Hamas but mired by lack of confidence in Israel and Washington

Netanyahu stalling on accord and insisting war in Gaza will continue until Hamas’s military and political capabilities eliminated

US secretary of state Antony Blinken: Hamas trusts neither Israel nor the US, which has backed Israel in its eight-month Gaza offensive. Photograph: Ibraheem al Omari/Pool/AFP via Getty

Hamas says it has responded positively to Washington’s Gaza ceasefire plan and the United Nations Security Council resolution mandating its implementation but an unnamed Israeli official has contended that the movement’s proposed amendments amount to a rejection. In reply, a Hamas source told the Israeli liberal daily Haaretz, “We said yes to the Biden deal, it’s Israel that is saying no to the ceasefire.”

Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq said on Wednesday the movement’s answer was “responsible, serious and positive” and “opens up a wide pathway” for an accord.

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Although US president Joe Biden said the plan originated with Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu’s government has not formally committed to the deal and has said the war will continue until Hamas’s military and political capabilities are eliminated

Both sides can accept the plan’s first phase, which envisages a six-week ceasefire, an Israeli evacuation of populated areas, and a swap of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.


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Israel would like the process to stop at the second phase, which proposes the release of all hostages and the start of negotiations on a permanent truce. Israel seeks victory over Hamas and has not decided on Gaza’s postwar status or the role Israel’s military will play in the Strip. Hamas insists on a deadline for a permanent truce, full Israeli withdrawal and Palestinian rule.

The third phase, when Gaza’s reconstruction is set to begin, would be problematic if Israeli troops remain in occupation.

While mediators Egypt and Qatar have been tasked with bridging the wide gaps over the plan, Hamas wants international and UN Security Council guarantees that the plan will be fully implemented. Hamas trusts neither Israel nor the US, which has backed Israel in its eight-month Gaza offensive.

As he left for the region this week, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Hamas was the “sole obstacle” to the plan. This undermined the movement’s trust in the ceasefire project, as Israel was not on board with it.

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Hamas knows that only the United States can tackle Israel if it refuses to carry out its obligations under the plan, but Hamas has no confidence in the US. Since Israel launched its offensive against Gaza last October, the Biden administration has vetoed three security council ceasefire resolutions, provided Israel with weapons to prosecute the war and protected it politically.

Hamas seeks to be treated as a national movement rather than a terrorist organisation.

The designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation was adopted in 1997 by the US and its allies, and remained after 2017 when Hamas accepted the two-state solution involving the emergence of a Palestinian state.