update deskIsrael at War

Biden: Must be ‘temporary ceasefire’ before Rafah operation

“I’m hoping that the Israelis will not make any massive land invasion in the meantime,” the U.S. president said. “It’s my expectation that’s not going to happen.”

U.S. President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on June 22, 2023. Credit: Muhammad Aamir Sumsum/Shutterstock.
U.S. President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on June 22, 2023. Credit: Muhammad Aamir Sumsum/Shutterstock.

U.S. President Joe Biden demanded a temporary ceasefire to secure the release of hostages in Gaza, claiming that the deal “has to” go through before Israel launches a military operation in the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at a quickly scheduled press conference on Friday about the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Biden was asked if Israel provided him with a plan to address the more than 1 million civilians sheltering in Rafah ahead of an expected operation to clear out Hamas.

“There has to be a temporary ceasefire to get the prisoners out—to get the hostages out,” Biden said. “I’m hoping that the Israelis will not make any massive land invasion in the meantime. It’s my expectation that’s not going to happen. There has to be a ceasefire temporarily to get those hostages.”

The president added that he had multiple, nearly hour-long conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveying that message in recent days. He also noted that U.S. citizens remain among the hostages whom Hamas terrorists kidnapped on Oct. 7.

“My hope and expectation is that we’ll get this hostage deal,” he said. “We’ll bring the Americans home and the deal is being negotiated now.”

Biden said on Monday that the United States is working with Netanyahu and Qatari and Egyptian leaders to get a deal for a temporary ceasefire and the release of hostages,  and that the “key elements” of the deal are ready but “gaps” remain. 

Earlier this month, Hamas rejected a hostage deal that would have included a two-month ceasefire. Israel rejected Hamas’s counterproposal, which called for the release of additional terrorists from Israeli prisons and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

On Friday, Biden also criticized Republican leaders in the House of Representatives for going on recess before passing a $95 billion foreign aid package that includes more than $14 billion for Israel and $60 billion for Ukraine.

“It’s about time they step up, don’t you think?” Biden said. “To go on a two-week vacation—two weeks—we’re walking away. Two weeks! What are they thinking? My God, this is bizarre. And it’s just reinforcing all the concern, and I won’t say ‘panic,’ but real concern about the United States being a reliable ally. This is outrageous.”

The Senate passed the aid package with a bipartisan 70-29 majority, but House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has said that he would not be “jammed” into passing the bill, which is opposed by many House Republicans, who are against sending additional aid to Ukraine.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has called for a regular floor vote on the bill but also said that he would be open to pursuing the unusual parliamentary maneuver of using a discharge petition to force the vote.

“All legislative options are on the table,” Jeffries said on Tuesday.

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