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Sullivan: Israel accepted Biden proposal, ‘ball is in Hamas’s court’

“The onus is on Hamas and will remain on Hamas until we get a formal response from them."

Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security advisor, at the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institute on April 27, 2023. Photo by Ralph Alswang/Brookings Institution.
Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security advisor, at the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institute on April 27, 2023. Photo by Ralph Alswang/Brookings Institution.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that Israel has accepted the ceasefire proposal President Joe Biden revealed on Friday, and that “the ball is in Hamas’s court.”

“We are waiting for a response from Hamas,” said Sullivan. He acknowledged that the terror group in Gaza might well choose to continue the conflict instead.

“That wouldn’t be terribly out of character for a vicious and brutal terror group, but what we hope they do in the end is see that the best pathway to an end to this war, the return of all the hostages, a surge of humanitarian assistance, is to accept this proposal,” he added.

The war started on Oct. 7 when Hamas led a mass invasion of Israel’s northwestern Negev, murdering, wounding and kidnapping thousands of people, while committing widespread atrocities.

“The onus is on Hamas and will remain on Hamas until we get a formal response from them,” said Sullivan.

The Biden envoy also clarified that Israel had accepted the deal when a reporter suggested otherwise.

“I take issue with the end of your question when you said Israel rejected the proposal,” said Sullivan. “The prime minister’s own adviser went out publicly and said they accepted the proposal. They have reaffirmed that they have accepted the proposal…[it] is a proposal Israel accepted before and continues to accept today. The ball is in Hamas’s court,” he added.

Sullivan also said that CIA Director William Burns is making another trip to the region, arriving in Doha to talk with Qatari mediators on the ceasefire proposal, which would see Israeli hostages released in exchange for Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons. U.S. Middle East adviser Brett McGurk also departed on Tuesday for the Arab Gulf state. An Egyptian security delegation will also reportedly join the American and Qatari talks in Doha on Wednesday.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it had handed Biden’s three-phase ceasefire proposal to Hamas and that the document is much closer to the positions of both sides.

A spokesman for Hamas on Tuesday repeated the terror group’s demands for a “clear” Israeli commitment to end the war and withdraw from Gaza. That goes against the stated goals of Israel’s War Cabinet, which remain in place: to defeat Hamas, return the hostages and ensure the terror group can never again threaten Israel.

“We asked the mediators to get a clear Israeli position to commit to a permanent ceasefire and a complete withdrawal from Gaza,” Hamas official Osama Hamdan told a press conference in Beirut.

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, together with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, threatened on Saturday to exit the coalition if Netanyahu agrees to a deal under the terms made public by Biden on Friday.

Netanyahu reportedly met with Ben-Gvir on Monday to discuss the details of the proposal, which he has said differ from the outline presented publicly by the U.S. president.

Israel Hayom quoted sources in Netanyahu’s office as saying that the premier intended to show Ben-Gvir the full draft of the proposal, which contrary to Biden’s remarks contains no clause requiring Israel to end the war.

An Israeli official told Channel 12 on Tuesday night that the deal currently on the table is the best one Hamas will be offered, adding, “We went as far as possible.”

Biden, in an interview with Time published on Tuesday, said that Netanyahu was under “enormous pressure” to make a deal.

“The last offer Israel made was very generous in terms of who [Palestinian prisoners] they’d be willing to release, what they’d give in return, et cetera. Bibi [Netanyahu] is under enormous pressure on the hostages…and so he’s prepared to do about anything to get the hostages back,” he said.

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