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Netanyahu may be forced to choose between a cease-fire and his government’s survival.

Netanyahu may be forced to choose between a cease-fire and his government’s survival.
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Middle East|Netanyahu may be forced to choose between a cease-fire and his government’s survival.

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/02/world/middleeast/netanyahu-may-be-forced-to-choose-between-a-cease-fire-and-political-survival.html

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For months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has refused to offer a timeline for ending the war against Hamas in Gaza, a reticence that his critics see as a political tactic. But he has been put on the spot this weekend by President Biden’s announcement outlining a proposal for a truce.

Mr. Netanyahu, a conservative, has long juggled competing personal, political and national interests. He now appears to be facing a stark choice between the survival of his hard-line, hawkish government and bringing home hostages held in Gaza while setting himself and Israel on a new course away from growing international isolation.

Critics of the prime minister have portrayed him as indecisive and say there are two Netanyahus: one who functions pragmatically in the small war cabinet he formed with some centrist rivals, boosting its public legitimacy; and another who is effectively being held hostage himself by the far-right members of his governing coalition, who oppose any concession to Hamas and who ensure his political survival.

Mr. Biden on Friday outlined broad terms that he said were presented by Israel to the American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators who have been pushing for a deal to pause the fighting and free hostages held in Gaza. Israeli officials confirmed that the terms matched a cease-fire proposal that had been greenlit by Israel’s war cabinet but not yet presented to the Israeli public.

Now, analysts say, it is crunchtime for Mr. Netanyahu, or Bibi, as he is popularly known.

Mr. Biden “booted Netanyahu out of the closet of ambiguity and presented Netanyahu’s proposal himself,” Ben Caspit, a biographer and longtime critic of Mr. Netanyahu, wrote in Sunday’s Maariv, a Hebrew daily. “Then he asked a simple question: Does Bibi support Netanyahu’s proposal? Yes or no. No nonsense and hot air.”

The leaders of two far-right parties in the coalition — Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s minister of finance, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister — have explicitly threatened to bring Mr. Netanyahu’s government down if the prime minister goes along with the deal outlined by Mr. Biden before Hamas is fully destroyed. Some hard-line members of Mr. Netanyahu’s own Likud party have said they will join them.


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