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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Israel won’t give up on ‘absolute victory’ – Netanyahu

The country is only considering a temporary truce with Hamas to secure the release of hostages, the prime minister insists

Israel is ready to consider a temporary ceasefire with militants in Gaza for the sole purpose of freeing hostages, but will not stop the war against Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Ending the hostilities without crushing the Palestinian armed group would constitute “surrender” and only play into the hands of “enemies,” Netanyahu said during a meeting of his security cabinet.

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The prime minister also criticized a three-point peace plan floated by Washington last week, saying he had only agreed to “discuss” the matter rather than comply with it.

“[US President Joe] Biden didn’t mention an important detail – that in the second stage, Israel didn’t agree to end the war, but only to ‘discuss’ its end. What does it mean to discuss? We discuss only on our terms,” Netanyahu stated.

The three-point peace plan was unveiled by Biden on Friday. In its first phase, the scheme envisions an immediate “full and complete ceasefire” lasting for six weeks, with the second stipulating the release of both Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and withdrawal of IDF personnel from the enclave. The final stage envisions “a major reconstruction” of Gaza with the participation of the international community in a way that would “not allow Hamas to rearm.”

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Over the weekend, Ophir Falk, chief foreign policy advisor to Netanyahu, said Israel had accepted the framework. The official suggested the plan was not exactly “a good deal” and there were still “a lot of details to be worked out,” before Netanyahu clarified that such a truce would only be temporary.

“I will not be ready to stop the war. Despite what President Biden said, it has not yet been agreed how many hostages will be released in the first phase. We can stop the fighting for 42 days in order to return the hostages. We cannot stop the war. The Iranians and all our enemies are looking at us, and want to see if we surrender,” the Israeli prime minister stated.

“There are many details in the deal, and the war will not end without us achieving all of our objectives. We will not give up on an absolute victory,” Netanyahu stressed.

The prime minister’s remarks contrasted sharply with the US portrayal of Israel’s stance on the plan.

On Sunday, the US State Department said Secretary Antony Blinken held talks on the proposal with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. During the phonecall, the US diplomat commended Israel’s purported “readiness to conclude a deal” and underscored “that the proposal would advance Israel’s long-term security interests, including by enabling the possibility of further integration in the region.”