Why the Biden Cease-fire Proposal Will Not End the Gaza War Despite UN Approval

The UN Security Council resolution supporting the Biden ceasefire proposal evinces the broad support for ending the slaughter in Gaza. But Biden’s proposal does not promise an end to the war, much less Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which is a key Hamas demand.  By contrast, it does allow that Israel can accomplish its war aims by one means or another, following a humanitarian pause and partial hostage exchange. And while Washington plays the peacemaker, the Israeli offensive and US material support for it proceeds unimpeded. It’s a clever move, pushing a UN resolution that specifically pressures Hamas, while US-supplied Israeli bombs and shells continue to fall.

In some ways the proposal is similar to the one advanced in early May by Egypt and Qatar. Hamas accepted that proposal while Israel summarily rejected it, asserting that it was “far from Israel’s necessary requirements.” By contrast, Netanyahu’s response to the new proposal is more availing, although hardly the embrace implied by the UN resolution. Accordingly he has said “We reserve the right to return to war.” Does the new proposal allow that? It does. How?

In the earlier proposal, a temporary cease-fire leads organically to a permanent one should it hold for about 12 weeks. During this time humanitarian relief and some hostage exchange would supposedly occur. By contrast, in the Biden proposal, the transition to a permanent cease-fire is contingent on Israel and Hamas negotiating additional conditions for it. So, the move to a permanent cessation of military operations and hostilities remains contingent.

The proposal does provide that the cease-fire should continue for as long as the negotiations “are ongoing.” But what happens should either party decide the other is intransigent and exit the negotiations after six or more weeks? It is back to war – with the IDF still deployed in Gaza. So there’s no contradiction in Netanyahu claiming to accept the proposal while also asserting that “we have maintained the goals of the war, first of them the destruction of Hamas.” This does not bode well for ending the war.

Biden expressed the proposal’s true vector early in his May 31 remarks, promising a “‘day after’ in Gaza without Hamas in power.” But framing the proposal as guaranteeing the defeat of one side is hardly the basis for successful negotiations between contestants. Not surprisingly, Hamas has offered a counter-proposal seeking “written guarantees from mediators that a ceasefire would follow the hostage exchange.”

Carl Conetta has served as a research analyst in security affairs for 38 years working variously at the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies (Brookline MA), Commonwealth Institute (Cambridge MA), International Study Group on Alternative Security Policy (Berlin), Center for International Policy (Washington DC), and the Project on Defense Alternatives (Cambridge MA & Washington DC). He has also served as a consulting analyst for the Council on Foreign Relations, US House Armed Services Committee, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the post-Apartheid South African Ministry of Defense. Mr. Conetta is the author of more than 65 reports on armed conflict, military strategy, and defense budgeting. In addition, he has contributed to 15 edited volumes as well as publishing in World Policy Journal, Security Dialogue, Defense News, National Defense Journal, the Journal of Humanitarian Operations, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Aviation Week and Space Technology, among others. 

2 thoughts on “Why the Biden Cease-fire Proposal Will Not End the Gaza War Despite UN Approval”

  1. Indeed. As I've said, the US proposal is a non-starter. In fact, every proposal is a non-starter. No one ever bothers to mention that if the war ends without Hamas being destroyed – as Netanyahu promised – Netanyahu is out on his ear and in jail. He has zero incentive, no matter what is said about "hostages", to stop the war. He couldn't care less about the hostages. Neither do the crazies in his cabinet.

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