Has Hamas stopped demanding a ceasefire for a hostage deal with Israel?

Hamas has dropped its demand for an upfront commitment from Israel to end the war, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to send a team led by Mossad director David Barnea to take part in further talks for a settlement, the Jerusalem Post has learned.

Netanyahu spoke to US President Joe Biden and told him that Israel would participate in the talks based on the latest draft of the deal received on Wednesday, a proposal that deals with the release of the remaining 120 hostages and the issue of a Gaza ceasefire.

The terrorist group is still likely to demand a permanent ceasefire, possibly even before the first phase is completed, but it would allow the first phase of a three-phase agreement to begin without any commitments.

It’s a significant shift in the group’s position, raising cautious hope that the impasse caused by the proposal presented by Biden on May 31 has now finally been broken, allowing a deal to be completed.

Several top defense officials said the new pending talks are the closest Israel has come to achieving a hostage settlement with Hamas since a November deal that saw the release of 105 of the 251 hostages taken during the Hamas-led invasion of Israel on October 7, 2023.

An Israeli government source said that “Netanyahu approved sending a negotiation delegation regarding the hostages after preliminary discussions.”

The prime minister’s office said Netanyahu reiterated to Biden the principles that Israel adheres to, “chief among them Israel’s commitment to end the war only after it has achieved all of its objectives.”

The security cabinet met on Thursday night to further discuss the issue.

Details of the potential deal

A Palestinian official involved in the mediation effort told Reuters that Hamas had shown flexibility on some provisions, allowing a framework agreement to be reached if Israel approves. Two Hamas officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The three-phase agreement included the release of 33 humanitarian hostages during the first phase, which would last 42 days, in exchange for peace in the war. Negotiations on the issue of a permanent ceasefire would begin on the 16th day and would be concluded before the second phase began.

Israel has offered several new agreements, some of which Post have been reported, but some of them have not yet been fully disclosed.

Since May, Hamas has only demanded the release of 18 hostages during the first phase, and there are no reports it has taken any action on this demand while Israel returns to full negotiations.

This has allowed Netanyahu to claim that, at least so far, he has not agreed to end the war, although it is very likely that, ultimately, that will be the outcome of the talks.

America has always believed that once the war stops temporarily, this peace will take the form of a permanent ceasefire.

A decision by Israel to resume the war would prevent the release of the hostages.

This new round of talks, when resumed, is expected to take two to three weeks, as Hamas’s external leadership is having difficulty communicating with Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, who is hiding in tunnels and cannot be easily reached.

No venue for the talks has been announced.

Many details of the deal are still to be finalised, such as who will be on the list of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners and terrorists to be released from Israeli jails during the first and second phases of the deal. It is expected that some of the Palestinian prisoners to be released will be jailed for killing Israelis.

Three key factors helped Hamas show resilience, sources said.

The sources said this was possibly the first real push from Qatar in nine months. Doha and Cairo have acted as the main brokers for the hostage deal, which also involved help from the United States.

The second factor is the pressure exerted by Biden and his chief negotiator, CIA Director Bill Burns, who have threatened to withdraw from the talks and leave Hamas versus Israel without a mediator who can rein in Jerusalem.

Third, Egypt has also increased its pressure on Hamas.

Although there have been constant arguments and disagreements on the military’s side between Netanyahu, Barnea and IDF Maj. Gen. (retired) Nitzan Alon, Barnea has taken the lead in moving things forward with Burns and Qatar.

Netanyahu has faced stiff opposition from National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich over any move to end the war without the complete defeat of Hamas, which experts predict could take years.

The sudden move over the massive dormant mortgage deal comes as Netanyahu is set to travel to Washington to address a joint session of Congress. He is also likely to meet with Biden, but no official announcement has been made.

In their conversation on Thursday, Netanyahu congratulated Biden and the American people on celebrating Independence Day on July 4.

“The prime minister said there would be no freedom in the world without America. President Biden said there would be no security for Jews in the world without Israel,” Netanyahu’s office said.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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