Blinken discusses ceasefire deal with Gallant, Gantz
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Prague, May 31, 2024.
Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

The American diplomat said the hostage release proposal opens Israel to further regional integration and restoring calm in the north.

By JNS Staff Report
June 3, 2024

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held separate phone calls on Sunday with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz about the latest proposal for a hostage deal with Hamas.

“The Secretary commended Israel’s readiness to conclude a deal and affirmed that the onus is on Hamas to accept,” according to a readout of the call with Gallant released by the State Department. Blinken stressed that the terrorist group in Gaza “should take the deal without delay.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that Hamas views the latest proposal “positively,” and that “we are now waiting for the Israeli response.”

The outline, announced by U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, aims “to achieve a full and complete ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal, secure the release of all hostages, and surge humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza,” according to the State Department.

Blinken claimed in both calls that the proposal “would advance Israel’s long-term security interests,” telling Gallant that it would enable “the possibility for further integration in the region.” The Biden administration has for months been engaging in a diplomatic push for Israeli-Saudi normalization.

In the Gantz call, Blinken suggested that the deal opens “the possibility of calm along Israel’s border with Lebanon that would allow Israelis to return their homes.” Hezbollah, Iran’s terror proxy in Lebanon, has been carrying out near-daily attacks on Israel’s north since Oct. 8. Tens of thousands of Israelis remain internally displaced due to the violence.

Blinken “reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security” in the call with Gallant.

Gallant told Blinken that Israel was determined to defeat Hamas and to find an alternative to governing the Gaza Strip.

“Within the framework of any developing process, Minister Gallant emphasized Israel’s commitment to dismantling Hamas as a governing and military authority. In this regard, he discussed the issue of identifying and enabling the emergence of a local, governing alternative,” according to a readout of the call provided by Gallant’s office.

Gantz said that he focused on freeing the hostages as Israel’s “highest priority,” in a recap of the conversation posted to his X account.

“I emphasized to him that the State of Israel is committed to returning the hostages and views it not only as a superior moral responsibility, but a priority on the war’s timeline. We intend on doing whatever is necessary to exhaust any opportunity to achieve the goal,” Gantz wrote.

He added, “I reiterated to the Secretary the imperative of American pressure on the negotiators to ensure the implementation of the arrangement proposed by Israel.”

They were the first publicized calls between senior U.S. and Israeli officials since Biden’s speech.

The terms of the proposal laid out by Biden on Friday include a “permanent” end to hostilities and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in the State Dining Room at the White House, Biden said Israel had proposed a three-phase ceasefire deal to Hamas through Egyptian, Qatari and U.S. mediators.

“For the past several months, my negotiators, of the foreign policy, intelligence community and the like, have been relentlessly focused, not just on a ceasefire that would inevitably be fragile and temporary, but on a durable end of the war,” said Biden. “That’s been the focus—a durable end to this war.”

The U.S. president said he wants a future “without Hamas in power,” but described a series of steps that did not include the elimination of the terror group or its surrender.

“The first phase would last for six weeks,” he said. “Here’s what it would include: a full and complete ceasefire. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza. Release of a number of hostages, including women, the elderly, the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”

That phase, which would also include the return of some of the remains of dead hostages and the continued daily delivery of 600 trucks of aid to the Palestinians, would lead to an indefinite period of negotiations between Israel and Hamas to end the war, he said.

“During the six weeks of phase one, Israel and Hamas would negotiate the necessary arrangements to get to phase two, which is a permanent end to hostilities,” the president added. “The proposal says if the negotiations take longer than six weeks from phase one, the ceasefire will still continue as long as negotiations continue.”

The United States, Egypt and Qatar “would work to ensure negotiations keep going until all the agreements are reached and phase two is able to begin,” Biden added.

In the second phase, “Israeli forces will withdraw from Gaza” and release additional Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of all remaining living hostages, the president said. Quoting the text of the proposal, he said that at that point, the ceasefire would become “the cessation of hostilities permanently.”

The third phase would include the reconstruction of Gaza and the return of any remaining dead hostages. 

During the third phase, Biden said that the United States, Arab nations, the international community, along with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, would ensure that Hamas is not allowed to rearm.

The second and third phases are open-ended, allowing for additional negotiation; the senior U.S. official told reporters that each is envisioned to last about 42 days.

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