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After Biden’s Push for Truce, Netanyahu Calls Israel’s War Plans Unchanged

After Biden’s Push for Truce, Netanyahu Calls Israel’s War Plans Unchanged
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The timing of the remarks seemed to rebuff the president’s hopes for a speedy end to the war. But some analysts said the prime minister was aiming at domestic supporters, not the White House.

Groups of Palestinian residents of Jabaliya walk down a street with large amounts of debris and rubble from collapsed buildings.
Residents returning to Jabaliya in northern Gaza on Friday found the destruction so thorough that it was virtually impossible for vehicles, including ambulances, to get through the streets.Credit…Omar Al-Qattaa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A day after President Biden called on Israel and Hamas to reach a truce, declaring that it was “time for this war to end,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday reiterated that Israel would not agree to a permanent cease-fire in Gaza as long as Hamas still retains governing and military power.

In his statement, Mr. Netanyahu did not explicitly endorse or reject a proposed cease-fire plan that Mr. Biden had laid out in an unusually detailed address on Friday. Two Israeli officials confirmed that Mr. Biden’s proposal matched an Israeli cease-fire proposal that had been greenlit by Israel’s war cabinet. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.

But the timing of Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks, coming first thing the next morning, seemed to put the brakes on Mr. Biden’s hopes for a speedy resolution to the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

“Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu’s office said in the statement released on Saturday morning.

Biden administration officials and some Israeli analysts said they believed that Israel still supported the proposal Mr. Biden described on Friday, and that Mr. Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday was more tailored to his domestic audience and meant to manage his far-right cabinet members, rather than to push back against the White House. Mr. Biden is eager for the war to end, with the American presidential election just five months away.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s domestic political worries could prove paramount. On Saturday night, two of Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners — Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir — threatened to quit his government should he move forward with the proposal. Mr. Ben-Gvir labeled the terms of the agreement a “total defeat” and a “victory for terrorism.” If both of their parties left his coalition, it could mark the end of Mr. Netanyahu’s government.

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