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Netanyahu in bind: Save his far-right coalition or save Israel from isolation

In an attempt to persuade them not to oppose the hostage deal now on the table, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is telling the extremist ministers in his cabinet not to take Biden’s plan at face value.
TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they meet on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 20, 2023. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — Since US President Joe Biden revealed Friday the new proposal for a hostage release/cease-fire deal, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps issuing contradictory statements, in an apparent attempt to gain time and appease his far-right coalition partners.

For Netanyahu, the devil is always in the details. This time it is in Article 14 of the three-phase plan unveiled by Biden. "All procedures in this stage, including the temporary cessation of military operations by both sides, aid and shelter effort, withdrawal of forces, etc. will continue in stage two so long as the negotiations on the conditions for implementing stage two of this agreement are ongoing," according to the language of the draft deal, which Biden said Israel not only accepted, but actually proposed.

Netanyahu has tried in recent days to persuade his two ultra-nationalist government coalition partners — National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich — that they should allow him to move forward with this formulation. 

The Israeli premier is essentially downplaying the deal, telling the extremist ministers, who are holding him hostage with their threats to walk out of his government, not to take Biden’s plan at face value. In a rough paraphrase of his argument, Netanyahu is telling Smotrich and Ben-Gvir that Israel would not be agreeing to end the war with Hamas, because he had insisted on the article that would allow Israel to get back many hostages and then resume fighting to degrade Hamas of all its capabilities.

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