Blinken discusses hostage proposal, ‘day after’ Gaza war in meeting with Netanyahu

Secretary of state tells PM that US committed to ‘ensuring October 7 can never be repeated’; in talks with Gallant, Blinken stresses ‘onus’ on Hamas to accept ceasefire offer

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 10, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 10, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stressing the United States and other countries stand behind the hostage deal proposal recently presented by President Joe Biden.

On May 31, Biden outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal from Israel that envisions an eventual permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian security prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza. Hamas has not yet formally responded to the proposal.

“The secretary underscored the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, including through ensuring October 7 can never be repeated,” the State Department said in a readout on Blinken’s meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Blinken also updated Netanyahu on efforts to plan for the “day after” the war, something the premier has been wary of doing publicly out of fear of antagonizing his far-right coalition partners. National Unity chairman Benny Gantz cited the lack of post-war planning as one of the reasons for his Monday departure from the emergency government.

The meeting took place two days after a dramatic operation in which Israeli forces rescued four hostages from central Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp.

As Blinken and Netanyahu were meeting, Channel 12 news published extensive details of what it says is Israel’s May 27 proposed hostage and ceasefire deal to Hamas, without citing sources or saying how it obtained it. Contrary to what Netanyahu has insisted, the reported document apparently does not include the elimination of Hamas as a governing force in Gaza, and does include an Israeli commitment to end the war even before all hostages are released.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East, from the State Dining Room of the White House, May 31, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Prime Minister’s Office said the “document that was presented is incomplete and misleads the public.”

“The claim that Israel agreed to end the war before achieving all its goals is a total lie,” Netanyahu’s office added.

The top US diplomat also reiterated to Netanyahu the administration’s belief that the ceasefire proposal would “unlock the possibility of calm along Israel’s northern border and further integration with countries in the region,” while “emphasizing the importance of preventing the conflict from spreading.”

After meeting with Netanyahu, Blinken sat down with Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who said they discussed “our war in Gaza, the release of hostages, and the fight against the Iranian threat.”

He met later Monday with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and was slated to hold talks with opposition leaders the next day.

“The secretary commended Israel’s readiness to conclude a deal and affirmed that the onus is on Hamas to accept,” the State Department said in a statement on Blinken’s meeting with Gallant.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, meets Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem, June 10, 2024. (Lior Dekel/GPO)

Blinken’s eighth visit to the Middle East since October 7 comes as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas and Israel to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and ensure the war does not expand into Lebanon, where the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group has been engaged in near-daily border skirmishes with Israel.

Blinken first visited Cairo before heading to Israel. He is also set to travel to Jordan and Qatar this week.

Meeting with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt, a key mediator with Hamas, Blinken once again called on the terror group to accept Biden’s plan, which he said has wide international support and has been accepted by Israel. “My message to governments throughout the region… if you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say ‘yes,'” he told reporters before leaving Cairo.

Blinken was expected to push a similar message in Qatar, which like Egypt is a leading mediator with Hamas in the ceasefire negotiations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaks to reporters after his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, at Cairo airport, Egypt, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, Pool)

In Egypt, Blinken also “discussed the importance of reopening the Rafah Border Crossing” during his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, according to a US readout.

On Monday, NBC News reported that Washington officials have weighed holding independent negotiations with Hamas for the release of five US citizens among the hostages if the latest diplomacy efforts fail.

The report, which cited two current and two former senior US officials, said Israel would be cut out of the talks, which would be held via Qatar as a mediator.

The White House declined to comment on the report and Israel’s Kan public broadcaster cited a government source as saying Jerusalem is unaware of any such plan.

Screen capture from bodycam video during the rescue of hostages from Gaza on June 8, 2024. (Screen capture: IDF)

The Prime Minister’s Office told The Times of Israel in response to the report that “Israel welcomes any attempt to free our hostages.”

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office added that Netanyahu would raise the matter during his meeting with Blinken.

A US official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that the NBC report was exaggerated and that the administration is not currently focused on alternatives to the current hostage deal on the table.

On October 7 Hamas led 3,000 terrorists in a cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people and took 251 hostage to the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel launched an assault to destroy Hamas, topple its regime in Gaza, and free the hostages, of whom 120 still remain in captivity.

Troops of the Nahal Brigade operate in southern Gaza’s Rafah, in a handout photo published June 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. Of these, some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals or through self-reporting by families, with the rest of the figure based on Hamas “media sources.” The tolls, which cannot be verified, include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

On the Israeli side, 295 soldiers and one police officer have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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