Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt newspaper

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : The ‘Parachute’ Plan

US President Joe Biden announced a three-stage peace plan for a ceasefire in Gaza, and said it was an Israeli plan. However, there is something unclear about the proposal, its timing, and the method of presenting it.


President Biden said that the plan is Israeli, and Netanyahu’s office says that he “authorized” it. But in a statement on Saturday, Netanyahu declared that a ceasefire in Gaza cannot be achieved until the military and leadership capabilities of Hamas are eliminated.


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


He continued: “Under the proposal, Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The idea that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are met is not on the table.”


These statements indicate that there was no earlier agreement on the plan, as presented by Biden. Netanyahu’s words may be aimed at strengthening his internal position, as the pressures on him are coming from the outside and the inside, whether from the opposition, or Netanyahu’s allies on the extreme right.


The matter does not stop there, as the plan proposed by Biden, which extends over four and a half pages, includes a roadmap without clear details on how to go through the three junctures. The details are important.


Anyone who looks at the plan will find that the first stage includes a ceasefire, the release of a limited number of hostages, and an Israeli withdrawal, with talks with Hamas to reach the next stage.


The second phase includes the release of all hostages and complete Israeli withdrawal, which Biden called the “permanent end to hostilities” phase. This requires negotiations that may take more than six weeks, as he put it.


In the third phase, according to Biden, “the major reconstruction plan in Gaza will begin, and any last remains of the hostages who were killed will be returned to their families.” There are definitely more questions than answers here. Among them are the following: Who will manage Gaza throughout the implementation of these stages?


Although Hamas said that it viewed Biden’s plan positively, and as the US president noted that the proposal is similar to what Hamas agreed to earlier... Will Israel accept the return of Hamas to rule the Gaza Strip? Netanyahu says no.


Would Hamas accept giving up Gaza so easily? Of course not. If the goal is for Gaza to be governed by the Palestinian Authority, and this is what is supposed to be, is the Authority among the negotiating teams, according to the plan announced by Biden?


The other matter, according to Biden’s announcement, is that achieving these three stages requires serious and painstaking negotiations. Is Washington ready for that? Obviously not, all Biden wants now is a ceasefire and to focus on his election campaign, and the rest for him are just details.


Accordingly, it is clear that the plan was sent by “parachute” and was not the product of a previous agreement and commitment between all parties. I hope I am wrong, but things are not that easy, especially if we remember that the two negotiators, in the end, are Sinwar and Netanyahu.