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Biden description of Israel cease-fire offer ‘not accurate,’ Israeli official says

JERUSALEM — President Joe Biden’s description of Israel’s ceasefire proposal was “not accurate,” a senior Israeli official told NBC News, as doubts grew Monday about Israel’s position. the American ally on the agreement.

Biden said in a surprise announcement Friday that he was presenting a truce proposal that had been made by Israel and passed through mediators to Hamas.

But as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces competing pressures — from Washington and hostage families on one side and right-wing ministers threatening to overthrow his government on the other — a senior Israeli official questioned Biden’s characterization of the ceasefire offer.

The official specifically took issue with Israel agreeing to completely withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip as part of a deal to free the hostages.

“Israel has not changed its conditions to achieve a permanent ceasefire. This will only happen once our goals are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’ military and government capabilities,” the official said.

The official also said that although the White House described the plan as coming from Israel, it was actually a proposal presented by mediators to which Israel made amendments and changes.

“It’s strange that they say this is an Israeli proposal and at the same time Israel has to accept it,” the official said. The official added that Israel was awaiting Hamas’ official response to the proposal.

A US official responded Monday, telling NBC News that Biden had outlined the proposal Israel had proposed, but he also acknowledged the pressure Netanyahu would face from far-right officials and therefore urged the Israeli government to don’t back down.

Biden said Friday that the proposal was sent to the activist group via Qatar, which helped negotiate for months.

A Hamas spokesperson said the group “viewed positively” what was included in Biden’s speech. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reiterated Monday that Hamas viewed the proposal positively and said everyone was waiting for a response from Israel.

Biden said Israel had proposed a “new comprehensive proposal” that would ultimately lead to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

The three-part plan, Biden said, would include the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza and the release of a number of hostages held inside the enclave since the Israeli-led attack. Hamas on October 7. The first phase of the plan would also provide for a full six-week truce.

“You can’t count your hostages until they’re home.”

Biden’s speech put Netanyahu under renewed pressure at home and abroad.

Two of his right-wing ministers have threatened to withdraw from the coalition that keeps him in power if he accepts the ceasefire agreement presented by Biden. Israeli media reported Monday that Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with his National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, over his threats to leave the government.

At the same time, families of Israeli hostages have stepped up their demands for the government to reach a deal that could secure the release of their loved ones.

Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son Hersh has been detained in Gaza since October 7, said Monday that the proposal presented by Biden left her hopeful but still cautious.

“You can’t count your hostages until they’re in your house and you hug them,” she told NBC News in an interview in Jerusalem, adding: “I I’d love to think this is the beginning of the end.”

Goldberg-Polin criticized Israeli government officials who believe it is more important to continue the war than to bring the remaining hostages home. “If you believe in the justice of continuing this, let’s stop this for five hours, take these 125 out, and you, you put your son, your daughter, your mother, your brother, your sister, your grandfather, your baby there- in and continue your war with your people there,” she said. “Our people served their sentence in hell for nine months.”

The Biden administration also continued its pressure campaign this weekend.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Sunday evening with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet member Benny Gantz, both saying he “commended” Israel for the proposal and that it was the responsibility now it is up to Hamas to accept it, according to a summary of the report. appeals published by the Department of State.

A ceasefire deal would bring much-needed respite to Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel’s military operation in Rafah has pushed more than a million people to flee the southern city, the UN’s top agency said on Monday. United Nations for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA.

The Israeli military said its troops were continuing their “targeted, intelligence-driven operations” in Rafah, after moving deeper into the city despite US warnings.

Although Biden called it an Israeli proposal, Netanyahu has yet to respond publicly and the country’s official position was not immediately clear. NBC News has reached out to the Israeli Prime Minister’s office for clarification.

His office issued a statement on Saturday saying that the conditions imposed by Israel to end the war had not changed and that a permanent ceasefire could not begin until they were respected.

But in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, Ophir Falk, Netanyahu’s senior foreign policy adviser, said Israel was not rejecting the deal. It’s “a deal we agreed to — it’s not a good deal, but we very much want the hostages to be released,” Falk said.

Raf Sanchez reported from Jerusalem, Yuliya Talmazan from London and Monica Alba from Washington.

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