Unpacking Blinken’s lies on the Gaza ceasefire negotiations

After the US secretary of state’s misleading press conference on Wednesday in Doha, there is a need to correct the record.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is pictured in Doha, Qatar, for negotiations on June 12, 2024 [Ibraheem Al Omari/Pool/Reuters]

During a Wednesday press conference in Doha, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was less than honest about a United States-proposed Gaza ceasefire deal.

During the course of his opening remarks and the question and answer session, Blinken made several statements that are either transparently untrue or deeply misleading.

First, Blinken insisted that the three-phased ceasefire deal announced by US President Joe Biden on May 31 was an “Israeli proposal” and that Israel fully backs it.

When asked during the question and answer session whether the US was attempting to put pressure on Israel to accept the proposal, Blinken said there was no need to do so because Israel had already accepted it.

But Blinken was being untruthful.

Biden proposed the deal because he is desperate to get out from under his disastrous Gaza policy before the start of the Democratic National Convention, which is scheduled for August.

Biden’s proclamation that it was an “Israeli proposal” simply isn’t true.

In the two weeks since Biden made his announcement, Israeli officials have not come forward and announced their acceptance of the deal.

In fact, they’ve done the opposite.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli officials have made clear that they oppose the Biden draft proposal.

Moreover, Netanyahu and other officials have made clear that Israel intends to continue its war on Gaza, an aim which contradicts the basic terms of Biden’s proposal.

On Monday at the United Nations, Israeli representative Reut Shapir Ben-Naftaly could not have been clearer about Israel’s position.

She said that Israel’s war aims “have not changed” and that the war “will continue … until Hamas military and governing capabilities are dismantled”.

She also said that Israel would not “engage in meaningless and endless negotiations” about a permanent ceasefire.

Israel’s public positions caused a former top Israeli diplomat, Alon Liel, to proclaim that Israel has “definitely not” accepted the “proposal submitted by the Americans”.

Indeed, Israel continues to say it is pursuing the “total victory” it has sought since the start of the war.

Although Israel claims “total victory” involves the elimination of Hamas, a more realistic interpretation is that Israel seeks the complete destruction of Gaza and the forced transfer of Palestinians there to Egypt and/or Jordan.

In any case, what is clear is that Israel has no intention of honouring phase two of Biden’s agreement, which calls for a permanent end to fighting.

Here, the devil is in the details.

The wording in Biden’s proposal gives Israel a way out after phase one.

The Biden proposal stipulates that phase two can only be reached upon Israel’s agreement at the end of phase one.

If Israel doesn’t agree to move to phase two and chooses to end negotiations, then the ceasefire is off.

But, as Israeli officials have made clear, Israel hasn’t agreed even to these very watered down ceasefire terms.

Blinken’s second lie pertains to Hamas and its position on the proposal.

During the press conference, Blinken indicated that the Biden proposal was “virtually identical” to the deal Hamas proposed on May 6.

Blinken went on to blame Hamas for being insincere and “continuing to try to change the terms,” including terms that “Hamas had previously accepted”.

But all of this is also untrue.

First, Hamas’s May 6 proposal was quite different from the Biden proposal. It did not give Israel wiggle room to easily exit the agreement after phase one. Also, and importantly, the Hamas proposal called for an end to Israel’s illegal, suffocating blockade on Gaza.

Blinken said that Hamas had proposed “numerous changes” to Biden’s proposal.

All Hamas did, however, was attempt to move things closer towards its May 6 proposal, which would lead to an actual end to the war.

One significant change that Hamas did introduce – an Israeli troop withdrawal – was necessitated by Israel’s taking over of the Philadelphi Corridor on May 30.

This is an important fact that Blinken conveniently decided to omit.

Third, Blinken said the “whole world” supports the proposal and that Hamas is the only entity to avoid getting behind it.

This is highly misleading.

Over the past several months, the US and Israel have rejected and obstructed several serious ceasefire proposals, all of which have been backed by Hamas and the global community.

After engaging in this obstruction, the US made its very imperfect proposal on May 31.

Countries in the United Nations Security Council voted for it not because it was a great proposal, nor because they thought it was better than previous proposals which they had also voted for.

They voted for this proposal precisely because of US obstructionism. Countries know that this proposal is the only game in town, the only opportunity that the US and Israel will allow for at least a temporary cessation.

Several countries made their reservations known on Monday. Russia, China, Malta and Algeria, among other global actors, have expressed their reservations.

Blinken’s statement that the “entire world” stands behind the Biden proposal is deeply misleading.

Fourth, Blinken blamed Hamas for holding up the ceasefire for 12 days.

During his Wednesday remarks, Blinken mentioned the “12 days” – which is the time elapsed between Biden’s announcement and Hamas’s response – a total of five times.

Each mention was an attempt by Blinken to blame Hamas for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

For example, Blinken said, “the reality is as this negotiation is going on, during the 12 days that it took Hamas to respond, the world wasn’t standing still. Gaza wasn’t standing still. People were suffering every single day.”

But Blinken is again being untruthful.

Biden announced the deal on May 31, but, as Sami Al-Arian and other analysts have noted, didn’t present a written, detailed draft to Hamas until much later.

The exact date is unclear, but based on news reports, it appears that as of June 5, Hamas still hadn’t received anything in writing from Biden.

It appears they may have finally received a written draft by June 6.

The group responded on June 11. That would mean a five-day gap, not the 12 that Blinken misleadingly claimed.

Given the apparently significant discrepancies between what Biden announced on May 31 and what he submitted to Hamas in writing, it is not unusual that Hamas needed five days to respond.

In any case, attempting to blame Hamas for Palestinian suffering constitutes another US attempt to shield Israel from blame over its mass killings in Gaza.

That Blinken would lie is not surprising. Indeed, in the context of Israel, the Palestinians, and Gaza, the Biden administration has a history of untruths.

But the sheer amount of lies that Blinken was able to pack into a short press conference is nonetheless astonishing.

Recent diplomatic manoeuvring isn’t likely to end the war on Gaza, but it will serve Biden’s domestic aims.

At the end of all this posturing, Biden will be able to tell US voters that he tried his best to end the war but that Hamas didn’t allow him to.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.