update deskIsrael at War

Biden optimistic due to ‘broad outlines of a deal’ but Hamas must agree, State Department says

"We do think it’s possible, and we’re going to continue to push for it," said Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, of a ceasefire deal.

U.S. President Joe Biden talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on Feb. 9, 2024, in the Oval Office. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
U.S. President Joe Biden talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on Feb. 9, 2024, in the Oval Office. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.

U.S. President Joe Biden raised eyebrows on Monday when he said that he hoped for a ceasefire deal by the end of next weekend. The remark puzzled senior Israeli officials, who were unaware of the cause for such expedited optimism.

Reporters wondered the same during the U.S. State Department press briefing on Tuesday.

“Can you give us any more details on what’s underpinning the president’s optimism given that partners in the region have kind of thrown cold water on the notion that this could be accomplished in the coming days?” a reporter asked.

“What’s underpinning the president’s optimism is looking at the broad outlines of a deal that we have put in place through negotiations last week and negotiations that are continuing through this week,” said Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman.

Miller added that Biden “believes and we believe one was in—one is within reach. That said, to be clear, we don’t have one yet.”

“Hamas will need to agree to one, but we do think it’s possible and we’re going to continue to push for it, and we want to see it happen as soon as possible,” he said.

“Certainly, we’d welcome getting one by this weekend,” he added. “We are trying to push this deal over the finish line.”

Asked about the timing of the deal around the Muslim month of Ramadan, Miller said that “if we got a temporary ceasefire as soon as this weekend or as soon as early next week, just looking at logically how that would proceed, that would extend over the course of Ramadan.”

“If we were able to reach over Ramadan—or before Ramadan, that would extend through Ramadan and would provide an outcome that I think would help alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and, as I said, get hostages out,” he added.

A reporter pointed out that Israel has said it will dismantle Hamas, and that the terrorist organization is currently holed up in Rafah.

“Let’s start by saying no one here can predict the future, and we ought to be—all ought to be humble in trying to predict how the future will unfold, especially in such a volatile situation,” Miller said.

A “number of variables” would be in play after a temporary ceasefire, according to Miller.

“Yes, we agree with the government of Israel that the persistence of Hamas battalions in Rafah or wherever else they might be, or Hamas fighters wherever else they might be in Gaza, does represent a legitimate security threat to the state of Israel that they have a right to address,” he said. “That may be addressing through a military campaign.”

“But as we’ve heard us say before, Hamas could make all this easier by laying down their arms and forswearing further threats against the government of Israel,” Miller added. “I know whenever I say that, people say, ‘Oh, Hamas will never do that.’ But again, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t if they want to see this war end.”

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