Biden reveals 'Israeli' ceasefire plan, putting the ball in Netanyahu's court

Al Majalla obtains the full text of the latest Gaza ceasefire proposal and lays out the Arab vision for Gaza's 'day after'

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on a proposed new ceasefire agreement in Gaza on 31 May, 2024.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on a proposed new ceasefire agreement in Gaza on 31 May, 2024.

Biden reveals 'Israeli' ceasefire plan, putting the ball in Netanyahu's court

Al Majalla has obtained the full texts of the latest ceasefire proposal presented by US President Joe Biden on Friday night as well as the Arab vision for the Palestinian issue. These documents offer a blueprint for Gaza's 'day after' and a new regional structure.

The proposal includes three phases: first, a temporary truce, followed by a ceasefire, hostage exchanges, provision of humanitarian aid, then a withdrawal of Israeli forces from residential areas and then from the Gaza Strip completely; and finally, the initiation of reconstruction process alongside regional efforts to "prevent the rearmament" of Hamas—a process that would take 3-5 years and would fall under the auspices of Egypt, the United States, Qatar and the United Nations.

Israel has made minor amendments to the draft agreement, which now includes "flexibility" regarding the number of living hostages to be released in the first phase. The partially modified version has been sent to Egypt and Qatar, but Hamas has yet to receive it.

However, the group has noted that the current situation with Israel's assault on Rafah is different than before its invasion when it had agreed to the ceasefire proposal on 5 May. Since then, the group has captured more Israeli soldiers during the latter's most recent military assault in Jabalia—the largest refugee camp in Gaza located in the north of the enclave.

Arab vision

Al Majalla previously published the text of the 'Arab Vision' presented to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other international parties a few weeks ago. This vision outlined a solution to the Palestinian issue, starting with a ceasefire in Gaza, control of border crossings, deployment of international protection and peacekeeping forces, and Arab support. It culminates in the recognition of the Palestinian state as part of a "two-state solution"

The document details the Arab vision of how to end the Gaza war and achieve a permanent solution and also discusses a “regional security structure to ensure the safety of both Palestine and Israel, involving the United States, and other partners including Arab states, Israel, and Palestine.” The proposal makes no mention of Hamas—the Islamist group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. Instead, it proposes the return of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions to Gaza with “Arab and international support.”

Read more: PA rule in Gaza is the most realistic way forward

The US State Department is reviewing the Arab proposal and is expected to provide written feedback to the involved parties. Initial feedback, however, mentions that the plan “lacks a clear implementation mechanism” and includes “unrealistic elements.”

Al Majalla
A picture of the latest ceasefire proposal that US President Joe Biden announced on Friday night.

Three phases

President Biden's press conference on 31 May was an attempt to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing ministers to accept the roadmap. During his address, he made careful note that it was an "Israeli" plan.

He then laid out the three phases of the plan, which would last six weeks and end in a comprehensive ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas in Gaza, and the release of several hostages, including women, the elderly, and the injured, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”

Hamas took 252 Israelis hostage on 7 October. Many were released in a hostage exchange deal in November. Of the 121 remaining hostages, 37 have died, according to Israeli official sources. Approximately 14,000 Palestinians are currently in Israeli prison—a large portion of which were detained after 7 October. Hamas hopes a hostage swap will secure the release of many of these prisoners.

In the first phase, Palestinians will be allowed to return to their “homes and neighbourhoods,” including northern Gaza. In addition, 600 truckloads of humanitarian aid will enter Gaza daily, including temporary housing units and shelters.

This phase will be accompanied by negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach a permanent ceasefire, leading to the second phase, which will also last six weeks. It involves Hamas releasing "all remaining living hostages," including soldiers. The truce will then become a permanent ceasefire if the terms are adhered to. The third phase would kick off the reconstruction of Gaza with support from the United States and the international community. In his public address, Biden said he would work with regional partners to prevent Hamas from “rearming.”

Commenting on Biden's speech, Netanyahu stated that the Gaza war would not end until “Hamas was eliminated.” His office emphasised that Netanyahu "authorised the negotiating team to present a plan to achieve this goal, stressing that the war would continue until all objectives were met, including the return of all hostages and the elimination of Hamas's military and governmental capabilities.”

Hamas, in turn, said it was looking at the deal "positively" as long as it would end in a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from Gaza, reconstruction, and prisoner exchanges. The group pointed to its regrouping in northern Gaza and launching rockets from Gaza into Israel as proof of Netanyahu's failure to achieve his goals.

Secret meetings

In recent weeks and months, a series of secret meetings took place in Cairo, Doha, and Paris involving Egyptian, Qatari, and Israeli security officials and CIA Director William Burns to finalise a framework agreement to end the Gaza war.

On 5 May, a final draft of the agreement was completed, which was obtained by Al Majalla. Hamas approved the deal, but Netanyahu rejected it, choosing to push ahead with an assault on Gaza's southernmost city, Rafah instead, where Israel had instructed Palestinians to go to for "safety".

Bashar TALEB / AFP
Palestinians fleeing with their belongings ride atop their vehicle in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 29, 2024.

Read more: In Rafah, Gaza's displaced are caught between tanks and tents

The agreement, according to its text, aims to “release all Israeli captives in Gaza—both civilians and soldiers, both alive and dead, taken hostage in this conflict and past ones as well—in exchange for the release of a number of Palestinians from Israeli and the return to sustainable calm with the goal of reaching a permanent ceasefire, and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and reconstruction.”

The framework agreement consists of three interconnected and interrelated phases. The first phase, lasting 42 days, includes a temporary cessation of mutual military operations between the two parties and a withdrawal of Israeli forces eastward and away from densely populated areas to an area along the border in all areas of the Gaza Strip, including Wadi Gaza – (“Netzarim” axis and Kuwait roundabout). Secondly, the suspension of military and reconnaissance flights in the Gaza Strip for ten hours a day and for 12 hours on the days of releasing detainees and prisoners. Thirdly, the return of displaced persons to their residential areas and withdrawal from Wadi Gaza (‘Netzarim’ axis and Kuwait roundabout).

On the third day (after releasing three detainees), the Israeli forces would completely withdraw from Rashid Street east of Salah Al-Din Street and completely dismantle military sites and installations in the area. Displaced Palestinians would be allowed to return to their respective residential areas (without carrying weapons during their return) and move freely throughout Gaza. Humanitarian aid would immediately be allowed in without delay or obstruction.

On day 22 (after releasing half of the living detainees, including female soldiers), Israeli forces would withdraw from the central sector (especially the axes of “Netzarim,” Al-Shuhada, and Kuwait roundabout) east of Salah Al-Din Road to an area close to the border, dismantle all their military sites and installations completely, continue the return of displaced persons to their homes in the northern Strip, and allow freedom of movement for residents in all areas of Gaza.

Humanitarian aid, relief materials, and fuel (600 trucks daily, including 50 fuel trucks, 300 for the north) will be allowed in from day one, including the fuel necessary to operate the power station, trade, and equipment needed to remove rubble, rehabilitate and operate hospitals, health centres, and bakeries in all areas of the Gaza Strip—a process that will continue throughout all stages of the agreement.

A Palestinian woman and girl walking among the rubble of destroyed homes following the Israeli air and ground attack in Jabalia, northern Gaza Strip.

Prisoner and detainee exchange

In the first phase, Hamas will release 33 Israeli women and children under the age of 19 (including civilians and soldiers, both alive and dead) as well as the elderly (over 50 years old) and sick and wounded civilians in exchange for a number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention centres.

Hamas should release all living Israeli civilian women and children; in return, Israel would release 30 women and children for each Israeli released, based on lists provided by Hamas prioritised by who was detained by Israel first.

Hamas would also release all living elderly, sick and wounded Israeli civilians, and in return, Israel would release 30 prisoners of the elderly and sick in exchange for each female Israeli released, based on lists provided by Hamas prioritised by who was detained by Israel first.

Hamas would release all living female Israeli soldiers; in return, Israel would release 50 Palestinians from its prisons for each Israeli soldier released (including 30 serving life sentences and 20 serving other sentences), based on lists provided by Hamas.

Hamas would release three Israeli detainees on the third day of the agreement and then release three more detainees every seven days, starting with women where possible (civilians and soldiers). In the sixth week, Hamas would release all remaining Israeli civilians included in this phase.

In return, Israel would release an agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, according to lists that will be provided by Hamas. By the seventh day (where possible), Hamas will provide information on the number of living Israeli hostages to be released in this phase. On day 22, Israel would release all Palestinians who were released during the Gilad Shalit deal but then were re-arrested. (In 2011, Israel released 1,027 Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured and taken hostage by Hamas in 2006.)

The latest proposal stipulates that “if the number of living Israeli detainees intended for release does not reach 33, the number will be completed from the bodies from the same categories for this phase; in return, Israel would release all those arrested from Gaza after 7 October 2023, in the fifth week of this phase."

Al Majalla
A copy of the Arabic document

The exchange process will be linked to compliance with the terms of the agreement, including the mutual halting of military operations, Israeli troop withdrawal, the return of displaced persons, and entry of humanitarian aid.

Additionally, it states that “by no later than day 16 of the first phase, indirect negotiations between the parties should begin regarding the details of the second phase of this agreement, which involves the exchange of prisoners and detainees (soldiers and remaining men), to be completed and agreed upon before the end of the fifth week of this phase.”

The United Nations and its agencies, including UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and other international organisations, will continue to provide humanitarian services in all areas of the Gaza Strip. This includes rehabilitating infrastructure (electricity, water, sewage, communications, and roads) in all areas of the Gaza Strip. In addition, the entry of supplies necessary to accommodate and house displaced persons who lost their homes during the war (at least 60,000 temporary housing units and 200,000 tents) will be facilitated.

Under the deal, 50 wounded “military personnel” would be allowed to travel through the Rafah crossing for medical treatment, and Palestinians, including the wounded and ill, would be allowed to travel in and out of Gaza without restrictions. The comprehensive reconstruction process of houses, civilian facilities, and civil infrastructure would then begin "under the supervision of several countries and organisations, including Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations."

All of the abovementioned actions will continue in the second phase until the announcement of sustainable calm (a cessation of military and hostile operations).

The second phase, which is set to last for 42 days, would see the release of the remaining Israeli men in Gaza (civilians and soldiers) in exchange for a number agreed upon of Palesitnians in Israeli prisons and detention camps, and the "complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."

And the third phase, which also spans 42 days, will include:

1. An exchange of bodies and remains of the deceased on both sides after locating and identifying them.

2. The beginning of a reconstruction process that would take 3 to 5 years, which would see the rebuilding of houses, civilian facilities and infrastructure, and the compensation of all affected individuals under the supervision of several countries and organisations, including Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations.

3. A complete end of Israel's siege on Gaza.

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