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Biden’s description of Israel’s ceasefire 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 the official questioned Biden’s characterization of the ceasefire offer, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – facing competing pressures from Washington and hostage families on one side and ministers right-wing party threatening to bring down its government on the other – said Biden had presented only a partial version of the Israeli proposal.

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 approximately 125 hostages who remain in captivity there.

“Israel has not changed its conditions to achieve a permanent ceasefire. This will only happen once our goals have been 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.

Netanyahu himself spoke later Monday, his first public comments after days of questions about his position.

The Israeli leader told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that the outline presented by Biden was only “partial,” his spokesman David Mencer told reporters.

“The war will be stopped with the aim of repatriating the hostages and we will then continue discussions,” Mencer quoted the prime minister as saying. “There are other details that the US president has not presented to the public.”

In another video message, Netanyahu himself said that Israel was pursuing two goals in Gaza: the elimination of Hamas and the return of the hostages.

“We insist that we complete this and that,” Netanyahu said in a video statement recorded in Hebrew. “It’s part of the broad outline, it’s not something I’m adding now, it’s not something I’m adding because I was pressured within the coalition, it’s something something we unanimously agreed on in the War Cabinet.”

“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.

His hardline National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said Monday that he had tried to revise a draft of the proposal presented by Biden, but that Netanyahu’s office had denied him the opportunity to do so. He accused Netanyahu of trying to “whitewash” the proposal and reiterated his threat to overthrow the government if the prime minister accepted the deal.

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. »

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