Sherwin Pomerantz

Is a Ceasefire Aound the Corner?

Israel has accepted a framework deal for winding down the Gaza war now being advanced by US President Joe Biden, an aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed on Sunday, as Jerusalem waited for a Hamas response.

The three-phase proposal, which Hamas has yet to accept and which the war cabinet discussed on Sunday night, would see the return of the remaining 125 hostages over a period of time.

In an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times, Ophir Falk, chief foreign policy advisor to Netanyahu, said Biden’s proposal unveiled on Friday, was “a deal we agreed to – it’s not a good deal but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them. There are a lot of details to be worked out,” he said, adding that Israel’s conditions, including “the release of the hostages and the destruction of Hamas as a genocidal terrorist organization,” have not changed.

US National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby told ABC that the proposal itself was an Israeli one, which was transmitted to Hamas already on Thursday night. “We’re waiting for an official response from Hamas. We would note that publicly, Hamas officials came out and welcomed this proposal,” Kirby said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the defense establishment was exploring day-after governing plans for Gaza that did not include Hamas.  “We will isolate areas [in Gaza], remove Hamas operatives from these areas, and introduce forces that will enable an alternative government to form – an alternative that threatens Hamas,” he said.  He stressed that Israel would not accept the rule of Hamas in Gaza at any stage in any process aimed at ending the war.

 US Secretary of State Blinken held separate phone calls on Sunday with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz about the latest proposal for a hostage deal with Hamas.  “The Secretary commended Israel’s readiness to conclude a deal and affirmed that the onus is on Hamas to accept,” according to a readout of the call with Gallant released by the State Department. Blinken stressed that the terrorist group in Gaza “should take the deal without delay.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that Hamas views the latest proposal “positively,” and that “we are now waiting for the Israeli response.”

Blinken claimed in both calls that the proposal “would advance Israel’s long-term security interests,” telling Gallant that it would enable “the possibility for further integration in the region.” The Biden administration has for months been engaging in a diplomatic push for Israeli-Saudi normalization.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has accepted the bipartisan invitation to address a joint session of the US Congress.  The invitation was issues in the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Minority Leader of the Senate, both Republicans, along with the Minority Leader of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate.  Given that it can be assumed that the invitation carried the blessing as well of President Biden, although it is not clear if, when or how he will meet with Netanyahu.

On a personal note, I still feel that Netanyahu will be walking into a challenging situation, Certain members of both houses will not attend as a protest (For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has already said that he will boycott the session) and there will no doubt be massive demonstrations in Washington against the Prime Minister and Israel’s conduct of the war.  We all have to hope that Netanyahu will be smart, choose his words carefully, and represent Israel in the best possible light.  

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.