Biden announces Israel has offered a three-part plan to end the war in Gaza

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Friday that Israel has proposed a three-part plan that would ultimately lead to a permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, as well as the release of all hostages who have been held there for the last eight months.

Speaking from the White House, Biden said that the proposal comes after intensive diplomacy carried out by his team. The plan has been relayed to Hamas via Qatar, one of the main mediators in negotiations.

Biden’s announcement is notable as he and his administration have battled opposition from the far-left wing of the Democratic Party, especially as the general election is in full swing.

People have demonstrated across the country, including students who set up encampments on college campuses last month. And members of the Biden administration have also quit their jobs in protest over U.S. policy toward Israel.

Palestinians carry salvaged belongings as they leave the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after they returned briefly to check on their homes on May 30, 2024.
Israel, and its most important ally, the United States, have come under intense criticism for the war in Gaza, which has killed some 36,000 Palestinians, according to officials there.Omar Al-Qattaa / AFP – Getty Images

The plan’s first phase would start with six weeks of a full and complete cease-fire, including the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas of Gaza, and the release of women and children being held hostage, Biden said during the surprise announcement. This initial stage would also include a surge of humanitarian assistance, with 600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza every day.

Biden said that, in that first phase, Israel and Hamas would negotiate a permanent cease-fire and admitted that there could be major hurdles.

“I’ll be honest with you, there are a number of things to be negotiated to move from phase one to phase two,” he said.

The president said that phase two wouldn’t begin until all agreements are reached. That second stage would involve the release of all living hostages in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

The final phase would be the start of a major reconstruction plan in Gaza and the return of the remains of deceased hostages to their families.

“I’ve urged the leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, regardless of whatever [political] pressure comes,” Biden said.

While Israeli officials did not comment on the specific terms outlined by Biden, a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had authorized the government’s negotiating team to “present an outline” that included “the return of all our abductees and the elimination of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities.”

Israeli soldiers during operations in the Gaza Strip in a photo released on May 31, 2024.
Israeli soldiers during operations in the Gaza Strip in a photo released Friday.Israeli army via AFP – Getty Images

Netanyahu, who has repeatedly promised to not end the war until Hamas is destroyed, has come under intense pressure from the families of hostages, many of whom say he and the government are not working hard enough to gain the return of their loved ones.

Hamas released a statement saying that the group “views positively what was included in US President Joe Biden’s speech today.” Hamas also said that it would only deal with proposals if they were based on a permanent cease-fire and complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, among other stipulations.

Friday’s statement echoed a statement from a day earlier in which the group asserted that if Israel stops its war in Gaza, it would be prepared “to reach a complete agreement that includes a comprehensive exchange deal.”

The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement stressed “the importance of creating real political conditions for the establishment of an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state.” Qatar has been heavily involved in mediating between parties during negotiations.

In a statement released after Biden’s announcement, former President Barack Obama praised the outlined plan writing that a ceasefire would “save lives” and “lay the foundation for what will be a long and difficult road to a future in which Israel is secure and at peace with its neighbors, and Palestinians finally have the security, freedom and self-determination that they have sought for so long.”

Biden’s announcement comes after Israeli forces moved farther into the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Tuesday, days after an airstrike sparked a major fire that killed dozens of Palestinians.

Biden has grown increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu in recent months, though the U.S. successfully defended its ally in April against Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel.

In March, Biden warned Netanyahu against Israel launching a military assault in Rafah, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan saying after the two leaders spoke that it “would be a mistake.” And in early May, the U.S. stopped a large shipment of offensive weapons to Israel. Despite what seemed to be Biden’s red line, the White House said earlier this week that Israel had not crossed it.

The war in Gaza, triggered by Hamas’ surprise assault on Israel on Oct. 7 which left some 1,200 dead and resulted in the kidnapping of 240, has killed around 36,000 Palestinians, according to officials in Gaza.  

Israel has been sharply criticized and become increasingly isolated during the war.

In recent weeks, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians fled after being forced from their homes.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor applied for arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and others over alleged war crimes.

In the last week, Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognized a Palestinian state, a step Israel vehemently opposes.