Blinken Says Haggling Must Stop After Hamas Requests Changes to Gaza Ceasefire Framework

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 12 said Hamas wants changes to a possible cease-fire deal that are not acceptable. He did not exactly lay out what changes Hamas is seeking.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared his frustration on Wednesday over changes Hamas has requested to a new ceasefire proposal to bring the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip to a close.

Mr. Blinken, along with other members of President Joe Biden’s administration, have pressed for Hamas—a U.S. and Israeli-designated terrorist group—to accept the three-part proposal to bring a cessation of hostilities after more than eight months of fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at a press conference in Doha alongside Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Mr. Blinken announced the Biden administration had received the Hamas response to the ceasefire proposal on Tuesday night and noted their response included several changes to the peace terms.

“Hamas has proposed numerous changes to the proposal that was on the table. We discussed those changes last night with Egyptian colleagues and today with the prime minister,” Mr. Blinken said. “Some of the changes are workable; some are not.”

Mr. Blinken insisted the ceasefire proposal was nearly identical to terms Hamas itself had supported as recently as May 6.

“Hamas could have answered with a single word: yes. Instead, Hamas waited nearly two weeks and then proposed more changes, a number of which go beyond positions it had previously taken and accepted,” Mr. Blinken continued, adding that these new changes mean the fighting in the Gaza Strip will continue for the time being.

Despite the apparent new wrinkles in the ceasefire negotiations, Mr. Blinken said the Biden administration, along with counterparts in Qatar and Egypt, will keep working “on an urgent basis” to finalize a ceasefire plan.

A reporter asked during the press conference whether the changes Hamas had requested for the ceasefire plan constituted an outright rejection of the proposal. In his response, Mr. Blinken did not directly call the Hamas response a rejection but said, “At some point in a negotiation . . . you get to a point where if one side continues to change its demands, including making demands and insisting on changes for things that it already accepted, you have to question whether they’re proceeding in good faith or not.” The secretary of state again said some of the changes Hamas had requested were workable but said it’s time “for the haggling to stop and a ceasefire to start.”

Mr. Blinken did not directly answer questions during the press conference about the specific changes Hamas had requested to the ceasefire proposal.

“I’m not going to, obviously, characterize or describe what they’re looking for,” he said. “All I can tell you, having gone over this with our colleagues, is that we believe that some of the requested changes are workable and some are not.”

NTD Photo
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan answers questions during a press briefing at the White House on May 13, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also faced questions about the Hamas-requested changes to the ceasefire proposal during a press engagement aboard Air Force One on Wednesday. One reporter had asked about claims Hamas was specifically seeking a written U.S. assurance of a permanent ceasefire.

“I have not heard that specific Hamas request today. Obviously, this is a fast-moving situation. And also, there’s a lot of different Hamas voices. So, we’ll await consultation with Egypt and Qatar, who speak through an authoritative channel with Hamas,” Mr. Sullivan said.

He declined other questions on Wednesday about the specific changes Hamas negotiators had requested but insisted President Biden had anticipated some back-and-forth haggling when he first announced the ceasefire plan last month.

“I would point out that, in his remarks on May 31st, the President anticipated that Hamas would come back, they would suggest some changes, and that the important thing was that all parties sit at the table until — the proverbial table here — until we get to an agreement.  That’s what we’re reinforcing today,” Mr. Sullivan said.