White House Announces Breakthrough in Gaza Cease-Fire Negotiations

White House Announces Breakthrough in Gaza Cease-Fire Negotiations
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East at the White House on May 31, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—The White House announced on Thursday a breakthrough in overcoming a “critical impasse” in negotiations with the Hamas terrorist group for the release of hostages and advancing toward a permanent cease-fire.

The president and his national security team have reviewed the response that Hamas sent through Qatari mediators earlier this week, the White House said.

“It’s clear that this response moves the process forward and may provide the basis for closing a deal,” a senior administration official told reporters during a call following the review of Hamas’s response.

“We do believe there is a pretty significant opening here.”

Negotiations will continue in Doha in the coming days, with a U.S. team participating, the official said.

The announcement was made after President Biden held a 30-minute phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which both leaders discussed the details of the hostage and cease-fire negotiations, according to the White House.

The White House stated that the leaders discussed the recent response from Hamas.

The senior administration official did not provide the details of the breakthrough but noted that Hamas initially resisted the conditions of the phase one deal, a prerequisite to phase two, which involves a permanent cease-fire. However, Hamas has now adjusted its position, a shift the White House described as encouraging.

“What we’ve got back from Hamas was a pretty significant adjustment to what had been their position, and we think that is encouraging. We have heard the same from the Israelis,” the official said.

He described the Hamas response as “a breakthrough on a critical impasse” in the deal.

However, this does not imply that the deal will close in a few days, the official said, as some of the implementation steps require significant work.

The first phase of the deal would allow the release of hostages, including women, men over 50, and those who are sick or wounded.

During their call, President Biden and Mr. Netanyahu also discussed the situation on the border with Lebanon.

“President Biden reaffirmed his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, including in the face of threats from Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah,” the White House said.

The two leaders agreed to further discussions on the peace deal. They have scheduled a consultative meeting for July 15 in Washington, where the national security teams of both countries will meet.

The Israeli leader is scheduled to address the U.S. Congress in late July, however, the official refrained from confirming if Mr. Netanyahu will also meet with President Biden during that trip.

On May 31, President Biden presented a three phase peace plan to end the war between Israel and Hamas.

The first phase of the deal would last six weeks and include a complete cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza, and the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for remaining hostages held by the terror group, including women, the elderly, and the wounded.

During the initial six-week phase, Israel and Hamas would negotiate the necessary arrangements to transition to the second phase, which aims to establish a permanent cease-fire, President Biden said.

“The cease-fire will continue as long as negotiations continue,” he said during a speech on May 31.

Phase two includes the exchange of all remaining hostages who are still alive, including male soldiers, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and the establishment of a permanent ceasefire.

The final phase involves a major reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of hostages killed by Hamas.

According to the White House, the cease-fire plan has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, the leaders of the Group of Seven, and other countries around the world.

From The Epoch Times