US says Hamas is to blame for ceasefire delay – but is it Hamas or Israel?

Biden administration insists Israel is on board, but the latter’s evasiveness highlights the contradictions of any deal.

Funeral prayers held in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital courtyard
Israel has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians in Gaza since October 7 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images]

The United States’ position on the Gaza ceasefire is that Hamas is responsible for the delay and that Israel has not just accepted the deal – it produced it.

In the weeks since US President Joe Biden announced his proposal for a ceasefire, his administration has repeated this point.

The US even took the notion to the United Nations, where the Security Council backed a text that said Israel accepted the deal.

Is Hamas really the reluctant one?

Hamas has made positive statements about the proposal, and has submitted a response which includes requested changes. There have been no confirmed reports of what these changes are.

In contrast, Israel refuses to say whether it supports the proposal.

The Palestinian group has consistently said it supports a ceasefire and wants an end to the fighting in Gaza.

It also said it will “deal positively to arrive at an agreement”, and its political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Sunday that the group’s position was “consistent with the foundational principles” of the ceasefire proposal.

In early May, Hamas had accepted an Egyptian-Qatari proposal that laid out a timetable for a ceasefire and was said to have only minor differences from the deal currently on the table.

What has Israel’s response been?

Israel has only been clear on what they do not want: No end to the war until “Hamas is defeated”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government have had two weeks to confirm that the proposal is theirs, but have chosen not to.

Instead, it was reported that Netanyahu told a closed-door meeting that Biden’s portrayal of the proposal was “inaccurate” and “incomplete”.

That has not stopped the US from laying the blame at Hamas’s door. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated to Al Jazeera on Thursday that Israel had accepted the proposal and Hamas had not.

On the same day, Biden said the biggest issue preventing a ceasefire from being agreed was Hamas refusing to sign up.

What does the Biden proposal say?

The proposal calls for a three-stage timetable that would see a temporary stop to the fighting and the release of some captives in the first phase as negotiators work on the next two stages, which would include a permanent ceasefire.

While Israel has not made firm statements on the issue, several politicians have made statements about continuing the war on Gaza.

Netanyahu has been adamant that Israel will not walk back its goal of the “destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities”.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said Hamas rule in Gaza would not be accepted and that fighting would continue to “remove Hamas operatives from … areas [in Gaza]”.

At the end of May, Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, even said the war would continue for “at least another seven months” – other Israeli leaders who have suggested there will be no respite for Palestinians in Gaza even in 2025.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to attack Gaza since Biden’s proposal, in Rafah, Nuseirat and elsewhere, leading to hundreds of Palestinian civilian deaths, and a death toll that now surpasses 37,000 people.

What’s the reason for Hamas’s position?

Hamas’s desire for more assurances when it comes to the latest ceasefire deal appears to be the result of a combination of self-preservation and a lack of trust in Israel’s adherence to the timetable set out.

Hamas is presenting its amendments to the ceasefire deal as merely a way to obtain reassurances that Israel will not simply abandon the deal after the first phase and continue the war.

This is perhaps understandable when looking at the previously stated Israeli position of total Hamas defeat.

Unlike the Israeli position, which focuses on the “military defeat of Hamas” for what Israel says is the elimination of an existential security threat, the Palestinian group shares the US’s stated goal of a permanent cessation of hostilities and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

What is the US going to do now?

Things are difficult for the US because, after being such vocal supporters of Israel from the beginning of the war, it is hard to suggest that an end to the war is now the priority and that the focus should be on what post-war Gaza will look like.

Biden is stuck, with the window of opportunity to end the war in Gaza before election season rapidly closing and the US struggling to find a solution that stops the fighting and yet somehow ensures that Hamas does not stay in power, while simultaneously appearing to not abandon Israel.

There are suggestions that Netanyahu, behind the scenes, does want a deal – perhaps explaining why the US keeps saying the ceasefire proposal is an Israeli one.

Why he has been so quiet touches on the Israeli PM’s problem: with coalition ministers like Itamar Ben-Gvir threatening to bring down the government should any deal be accepted, Netanyahu is also stuck.

Source: Al Jazeera