Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas's terms for a ceasefire and hostage-release agreement, stating that they are "delusional." This rejection further complicates efforts to reach a deal between the two sides. Netanyahu has vowed to continue Israel's four-month-long war in the Gaza Strip until achieving "absolute victory." He made these remarks after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been working to secure a ceasefire agreement.
Netanyahu stated during a news conference that surrendering to Hamas's demands would not lead to the release of captives but would invite another massacre. He expressed confidence in Israel's path to achieving "absolute victory," emphasizing that the operation would last months, not years. Netanyahu also ruled out any arrangement that would leave Hamas in full or partial control of Gaza, asserting that Israel is the only power capable of ensuring long-term security.
Despite the divergence between Israel and Hamas on the central terms for a deal, Blinken believes that a ceasefire and hostage-release agreement are still possible. He emphasized that reaching an agreement is not a straightforward process but requires negotiation.
Hamas has presented a detailed three-phase plan in response to a proposal from the United States, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt. The plan includes the release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and an end to the war. However, Israel aims to destroy Hamas's governing and military capabilities, and accepting Hamas's proposal would effectively allow the group to remain in power and rebuild its terrorist infrastructure.
The ongoing conflict has caused significant devastation, with entire neighborhoods leveled and the majority of Gaza's population displaced. The Palestinian death toll stands at over 27,000, according to Gaza's Health Ministry which is run by Hamas. The conflict has also led to attacks by Iran-backed militant groups in solidarity with the Palestinians, increasing the risk of a wider conflict.
Blinken is working to advance ceasefire talks while advocating for a larger postwar settlement that includes Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for progress towards establishing a Palestinian state. However, Netanyahu, who opposes Palestinian statehood, faces challenges within his governing coalition if he is seen as making too many concessions.
Hamas continues to resist Israeli forces, and their police force has returned to the streets in areas where Israeli troops have withdrawn. While Hamas is still holding hostages, the exact number of casualties remains uncertain, with the majority of deaths occurring on October 7th.