Israel Won't End War On Hamas As Part Of Hostage Deal, Bibi Tells Blinken

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 01, 2024 - 04:45 PM

It seems like once again that the Biden White House has almost zero sway, and that Israel is going to do whatever it is going to do, despite continued Washington pressure to halt and avoid the planned Rafah ground assault, with over a million refugees in harm's way.

A deal is still reportedly on the table, with with no breakthrough being reported amid negotiations mediated by Qatar and Egypt. The deal would reportedly see less than 40 Israeli hostages freed but Hamas wants a permanent, lasting truce that would involve an IDF troop withdrawal from Gaza while Tel Aviv only envisions a temporary pause in fighting.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has blamed Hamas for lack of a breakthrough in achieving a deal, saying alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem on Wednesday, "No delays, no excuses." He added: "The time is now."

File image: this week marks Blinken's seventh trip to Israel since the war began.

Gaza's terror group is "the only reason that that wouldn’t be achieved," he emphasized. It may not happen "because of Hamas" Blinken stressed. However, Axios' Israel correspondent Barak Ravid has reported that Blinken has conveyed to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that the US still stands against an IDF operation in Rafah "without a credible plan for protecting civilians."

Axios cited Blinken further as saying the Biden administration "thinks there are a better options to deal with the Hamas battalions in the city other than a full scale military operation," according to a US diplomatic source.

But importantly Netanyahu responded in the Wednesday meeting that he does not intend to accept any deal that includes ending the war. "He said if Hamas doesn't drop this demand there will be no deal and Israel will invade Rafah, per Israeli and U.S. officials," Ravid reports.

This is similar to what Netanyahu said the day prior: "We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there – with or without a deal, in order to achieve the total victory." Blinken is likely trying to get him to backdown from this hardline stance. But even as diplomacy and negotiations intensify, it could yet take several more days to reach a truce or ceasefire deal:

Suhail al-Hindi, a senior Hamas official, has told the AFP by phone that the group will issue a clear response to Israel’s ceasefire proposal “within a very short period”.

Al-Hindi did not provide a specific timeline for Hamas’s response, but another source told the AFP a reply is anticipated within the next day or two.

According to the source, Israel’s proposal includes “real concessions”, yet the question of its complete withdrawal from the Strip remains a likely sticking point.

Complicating things for Israel is the International Criminal Court (ICC) case hanging over Netanyahu and top Israeli officials. 

Herzog addressed the potential for arrest warrants to be issued from the Hague-based court: "Our enemies and other elements are trying to undermine the entire process by using international legal forums that were established in order to have a world order that pursues peace, and pursues the values and norms that we all believe in in the modern world." said the Israeli president. "Especially the efforts done at the International Criminal Court."

"Israel has a very strong legal system, very strong adjudication and law enforcement system, and it has pursued legal steps from the highest authorities in this land [against] any other citizen," said Herzog.

Netanyahu the day prior issued a video address condemning the action. While it would be largely symbolic, as the World Court doesn't have an enforcement arm, it would be a reputational black eye for Israel at a sensitive moment it faces immense criticism on a global stage for the soaring Gaza death toll and reports of famine. 

As for the impending Rafah operation, Netanyahu has been consistent for the past two months that Israel will go into the southern city "no matter what the US says." There's been no wavering on this point, however there does appear to have been a delay.