Netanyahu Says No ‘Permanent Ceasefire’ Until Hamas Is Destroyed

Netanyahu Says No ‘Permanent Ceasefire’ Until Hamas Is Destroyed
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) speak to the media following talks at the Chancellery, in Berlin, Germany, on March 16, 2023. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that the requirements for ending his country’s war or a ceasefire with Hamas “have not changed” amid questions about a possible peace deal.

His remarks came as President Joe Biden announced Friday that the Israeli government proposed a three-part deal for a Gaza ceasefire in exchange for Hamas releasing the remainder of the hostages who were abducted last October.

“Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: The destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement.

He added that his government “will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a nonstarter,” according to the statement.

President Biden on Friday argued that Hamas terrorists are “no longer capable” of carrying out a major attack on Israel since the Oct. 7 incident that left 1,200 civilians dead and resulted in the hostage-taking of more than 250. He urged both Israel and Hamas to come to an agreement to release about 100 or so remaining Hamas hostages in exchange for a ceasefire.

“Indefinite war in pursuit of an unidentified notion of total victory will only bog down Israel in Gaza,” the president said in an address.

In an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday morning, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the plan was an “Israeli proposal” and is “one that they arrived at after intense diplomacy with our own national security team, and over at the State Department.”

Immediately after President Biden’s comments last week, Mr. Netanyahu issued an initial statement saying that Israel is “united in the desire to return our hostages as soon as possible and is working to achieve this goal,” adding that “the exact outline proposed by Israel, including the conditional transition from stage to stage, allows Israel to maintain these principles.”

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A huge demonstration in Israel on Saturday night, led by families of hostages held by Hamas, urged the government to act now. Mediators from the United States, Egypt, and Qatar pressed Israel and Hamas, saying the proposed deal “offers a road map for a permanent cease-fire and ending the crisis” and gives immediate relief to both hostages and Gaza residents.

Families of hostages said time was running out.

“This might be the last chance to save lives,” Gili Roman told The Associated Press in an exclusive statement. His sister, Yarden Roman-Gat, was freed during a weeklong cease-fire in November, but sister-in-law Carmel is still held. “Our leadership must not disappoint us. But mostly, all eyes should be on Hamas,” Mr. Roman said.

Also on Saturday, Egypt’s state-run Al-Qahera News said officials from Egypt, the United States, and Israel would meet in Cairo over the weekend about the Rafah crossing, a crucial aid entry point that has been closed since Israel took over the Palestinian side in May.

Egypt has refused to open its side, fearing that Israeli control will be permanent.

It comes as international pressure for Mr. Netanyahu to end the Israeli military’s incursion in Gaza has been mounting in recent weeks. The International Criminal Court  (ICC) late last month said it would be pursing an arrest warrant for him, the leaders of Hamas, and the Israeli defense minister, drawing condemnation from the United States, the UK, and Israeli governments.

In an interview with CNN more than a week ago, Mr. Netanyahu warned that the ICC’s arrest warrant proposal portends a negative development for Western leaders.

“Israel is given here a bum rap. I think it’s dangerous. Basically, it’s the first democracy being taken to the dock when it is doing exactly what democracies should be doing in an exemplary way,” he told CNN. “It endangers all other democracies. Israel is first, but you’re next. Britain is next. Others are next, too.”

In a separate statement over the past weekend, Mr. Netanyahu accepted an invitation from U.S. congressional leaders to deliver an address at the Capitol, a show of support for Israel while the top ally of the United States shows frustration. No date has been set.

In response, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would boycott the Netanyahu speech at the Capitol, which in turn drew a rebuke from House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

“If that’s the side he wants to choose, so be it,” Mr. Johnson told “Fox News Sunday,” referring to Mr. Sanders’ criticism. “Our Democrat colleagues have to make a choice: Are they going to stand with our most important ally in the Middle East at the most desperate time as has traditionally been the case in Washington … or are they going to take this new side and stand with Hamas and the Ayatollah?” he asked.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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